Saturday, September 27, 2008

How Kent Tekulve Helped Me Learn Cast.

Kent Tekulve is a former right-handed relief pitcher in Major League Baseball who played from 1974 to 1989 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds.

He was known as a workhorse relief pitcher who led the major leagues in games pitched four times, appearing in 90 or more games three times. He holds the National League record for career innings pitched in relief (1,436⅔), and formerly held the major league record for career relief appearances; his 1,050 career games, all in relief, ranked second in major league history to Hoyt Wilhelm's 1,070 when he retired. Baseball Prospectus Profile

So what's that got to do with smallmouth bass fishing? Bear with me.

Tekulve had this submarine almost underhanded way he would hurl the ball towards home plate. I widely immitated him growing up in the late 70's and early 80's on the sandlot playing ball all day every day. Sorry Steve Carlton. Kent would drop his right shoulder way down and hurl so that the ball was almost rising on a batter. His arm angle was so low, there was no telling what the ball would do. It was unconventional and many batters weren't prepared for such a departure from the norm.

When wading creeks and rivers, there are many challenges that prevent getting at the bass. The bass don't make it easy, they often lay in the thick of laydowns under the shade of low hanging branches. Often an angler will give up on the spot because the branches hang so low to the water's surface.

The first solution would be to skip a plastic under the limbs. That's a great solution, unless they aren't biting finesse presentations. I can't skip a buzzbait. As my casting got better I tried more and more to zing into the most impossible places with the wrong lure to see if I could work it out, present in the right way, then catch a fish. Often the nicer bass are in such places!

Channeling Tekulve, I would drop my right shoulder, hold the lure inches above the water, swing it in a clockwise circle to load the rod, and fling the bait under the limbs with an early release and upward flip of the rod. No swinging the rod as much as using the forgrips as a fulcrim point. Right wrist foward, left wrist pulls back. The bait would start low and arc upward like a softball pitch. The trajectory would give me plenty of time to feather the 'brake' with my off hand, or crank before impact with a buzzbait. Other times the target would be deep and low- thus requiring a Tekulve fastball low and hard. Being prepared to feather the line quick really helps here.

Throwing in tight with several different levels of possible obstuction is part of what makes smallmouth fishing fun. It is a challenge to make that cast. Feels great when I'm able to pull it off. The experience is gravey on toast when I catch a nice fish on a difficult cast.

Funny thing is, so often smallmouth are in nearly impossible places. So until you get daring, you'll miss out on a lot of fish.

I took a total newb out on a local creek and was really struck how hard smallmouth can be to catch. All the areas where I caught fish were guarded by close limbs. Poor Jason was terrified to throw that buzzbait anywhere close to the smallies! Think he's hooked- sadly by watching me catch. Better lead by example guide I guess.

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