Snarled by Randy Rowley 7/4/19 ©


On a hot and muggy morning in late June, Ryan (my son) and I launched at the Marker 37 Marina in Corpus Christi and headed over to the Packery Channel south jetty.  We found a spot devoid of jetty fishermen, put on my Minn Kota Terrova Riptide’s i-Pilot anchor lock, and started to offer up shrimp, cut bait, and artificial lures.

We caught a few croakers and perch, but no game fish.  We grew tired of losing our shrimp and headed over to the north side of the 361 bridge where there is a large hole (the water drops from around 7 to 34 feet).  I positioned the boat equal distance between the shore fishermen, put on my i-Pilot’s anchor lock, and started to fish.

We fished for about half an hour and again caught croakers and perch, but mostly lost shrimp.  We were just about to go try another spot when a couple of bay boats pulled about 25 yards in front of us and started to fish.  The first boat almost immediately had a fish on and the second boat quickly followed suit.  They both soon landed keeper-sized black drums.

We spent the next 30 minutes watching them catch drum after drum.  They didn’t stay at one spot for long and weaved around each other in what looked like a drunken dance, while we continued to catch trash fish.  One of the crews grew tired of catching drum and started to head north.  As they neared us we exchanged pleasantries and I asked the captain what they were catching them on.

He replied that they were fishing live shrimp on jigheads and then suggested that I move my boat closer to the bridge.  Following his advice, I moved forward about 25 yards, but didn’t move all the way to the bridge as the other boat was still there.

I had never fished a shrimp on a jig head before and wasn’t sure how to go about baiting the hook.  After trying a couple of riggings, I settled on pushing the H&H Lure Double-Eye 1/4 oz. jighead’s hook in below the shrimp’s brain, curling it with the natural curve of its body, and then exiting near the tail.

In short order Ryan said, “Here we go!” as line started stripping off his reel.  I reeled in my shrimp as fast as I could and then got the landing net.  Ryan fought the fish at the middle of the boat, but when it saw the boat it made a run for the stern.  Ryan had a double hook rig with cut baits on it and a live perch on another rig that the fish promptly got his line wrapped around.  This turned out to be a blessing as the extra lines hindered its ability to swim.

It finally came to the top and I succeed in netting it.  It was a 24” black drum and was Ryan’s biggest bay fish to date.  We took a couple of pictures and put it in my fish box.  I resumed fishing while Ryan worked on sorting out his tangled lines.  Rather than just let the jighead sit I slowly rolled it back to my boat.

Soon I felt the pull of a game fish and reeled in a keeper black drum of 15 inches (an inch beyond the minimal length).  I rebaited and resumed fishing.

In a matter of seconds, I had a big hit and a fish on.  I knew that it was a big fish, so I set the hook twice while calling for Ryan to get the net.  I got the fish up to the surface at my boat’s bow, but as soon as he saw my boat he dove back down.  I got a good look at him and saw that it was a black drum that was the equal of Ryan’s fish, or better.

Four more times I got him up, this time mid-boat where Ryan waited with the net.  But each time the fish saw the boat he would make another run.  Ryan tried to net him a couple of times but the drum wouldn’t stay still long enough to allow him to do it.  My 7’ All Star Classic Series medium-heavy casting rod, which was designed for bass, just wasn’t stout enough to stop his runs, and my Lew’s Laser Speed Spool reel wasn’t powerful enough to reel him in.

After I brought him up the fifth time he again made another run.  This time the hook came out and came right back at me.  Its lip was probably torn to the point that the hook slipped out.  Sighing at losing probably the biggest bay fish that I’d ever hooked and seen, I rebaited and resumed fishing.

In a matter of seconds, I had another hit and fish on.  I thought that it was another 15 incher, but when it saw the boat it made a run.  I knew that it was another big fish and excitedly called for the net.  At first, it fought like the previous fish that I had on.  Each time it would see the boat it would run.  But it was smaller, and I more easily managed it.

On the second try Ryan netted the fish, but as he was bringing the net up the drum slipped out.  Ryan quickly netted it again and brought it into the boat.  It ended up being a 21 incher and was my second-longest bay fish to date.

After we got the drum in the fish box I quickly rebaited and cast to the starboard side of boat’s bow.  But my jighead came to an abrupt stop in midair only after flying about 20 feet.  Ryan had rebaited his double rig with cut bait and put it in one of the vertical rod holders on my boat’s center console.  My jighead’s hook caught on his line, resulting in one of the worst backlashes of my life.

A backlash happens when the lure slows down or stops in flight after casting, but the spool does not – resulting in a tangled mess of line at the reel.  It is also known as an ‘over-run,’ ‘bird’s nest,’ and ‘snarl.’  A baitcasting reel’s propensity to backlash is what usually discourages people the most from using one.

I spent a few seconds trying to pick the backlash out but quickly realized that it would take a long time.  Fortunately, I had three other rods with me.  I switched the jighead to another one of my rods and resumed fishing.  Unfortunately, the bite was over.  We tried for a few more minutes, but as we needed to go join the rest of the family at the beach we decided to call it a day.

Later that night I resumed work on my reel.  I got some of the backlash out, but soon hit a roadblock and couldn’t pull out any more line.  I then cut the line in around four places and resumed working on it.  But each time I would run into the same problem.  After I had cut out more than half of the line I realized that I would have to cut the remainder out and re-spool the reel with new line.

In Mark 9:43-47, Jesus said to his disciples, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”

Tragically, some Christians have mistakenly applied Jesus’ words literally and have mutilated their bodies in their battles with sin.  The problem with such a literal translation is that mutilating one’s body does not control sin as it is a matter of the heart and mind rather than a limb or organ.  If I dismember most of my body, I can still sin in my heart and mind.

Jesus did not demand self-mutilation, rather he as strongly as possible addressed the disciples’ erroneous thinking that going to heaven was a reward for good works and not related to sacrifice.

Paul encouraged us to put on the full armor of God, so we can stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and James encouraged us to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7).  But sometimes, like that snarl in my baitcasting reel, our best choice is to cut out what is causing the problem.

That might mean cutting out an attitude, activity, or even a relationship.  The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1b).  We must cut out and offer to God whatever is in our life that continues to snarl us.

The snarl

My shrimp on a jighead rig



Another way to rig a shrimp on a jighead

Categories : Devotionals

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