Hello to all. My name is Rick Bills (59 years young) and I just joined the club. Since the NAF wants my story I thought I would oblige. I have been fishing since my earliest memories. My parents always had some fishing leases on rivers here in Kansas. They always brought me along. We fished mostly for catfish using rods and reels, limblines and trotlines. I still remember the excitement when we would pull up to a limbline that was moving around. What was on it? Turtle? Gar? Carp? Or a great big catfish? They fished from a boat but also from what we called floaters (belly boats) back then. I got to fish from one too. I was always on one side of the seine when we went to get bait. One of the benefits of having kids I guess. I loved to turn over rocks in the riffles and try to find crawdads and hellgrammites. Great times. When I was 6 I was riding my tricycle down a steep driveway on the other side of the street from my house. I was on my way down the drive when I saw a car turn the corner. I knew I was going to get hit but there was no way I could stop. The car ran over my right leg below the knee. My parents got a small insurance settlement for that and when I was 12 they gave me $200.00 to spend on whatever I wanted. I bought an Ambassadeur 5000C baitcast reel and my own floater. What else?
I continued to fish with my parents until I got married at the age of 19 and moved away from home. I lived in Alabama for two years until I got divorced but didn't do much fishing there. When I moved back to Kansas I moved in with some friends that mostly fished for bass. So I became a bass fisherman. I bought a 14' aluminum boat and a 19 horse Evenrude motor. Sweet little setup. We did occasionally go to reservoirs and fish for walleye and white bass but mostly fished local ponds for bass. I still fished from my floater on occasion. I studied bass fishing and soon learned enough that I always outfished my friends. They always blamed it on the cheese crackers I brought with me. I remember one time we were heading to one of our favorite ponds and we always stopped at a small gas station/store on the way. I wasn't driving that day and the driver drove right on by the store. He said I wasn't going get my lucky cheese crackers. I pulled two packs of cheese crackers from my pocket and told him to keep on driving. Outfished them all that day too. Soon enough I met my future wife. We dated for about a year then moved in together. A year after that we had our first child. We were too poor to let me go fishing at first. I had to sell my boat. I worked in construction and she stayed at home and took care of the house and children. Two girls and a boy. Great kids. I kept improving my construction skills (rough carpentry, sheetrocking and caulking mostly) until I became known around Wichita as a very good and skilled worker. I stared making decent money and could afford the occasional fishing trip. Unfortunately for me about 25 years ago I started slowly losing control of my muscles until I got to the point where I couldn't work anymore. I ended up in a wheelchair. My doctor and several specialists couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. They did test after test and took gallons (it seemed) of blood but never really found out what the cause was. They decided to try massive doses of Prednisone as an experiment. After about a year I started regaining muscle control. I remember the day I stood up and walked for the first time. Amazing feeling just doing something normal like that. I no longer have to take Prednisone and can still walk and do just about anything I want. I never regained full strength but that hasn't been too much of a problem. Except when fishing. One day I heard about a strip pit about 5 minutes from my house that was offering fishing leases. I bought one and fished there for several months before I found the bank that offered the best fishing. Large bass and catfish. There were large chunks of concrete and rebar submerged all along that bank. I got hung up a lot but caught a lot of fish. I got my fishing rods jerked out my hands many times due to lack of strength but always reached down into the water (it was clear enough I could see the rod) and grabbed the rod. I never lost a rod that way. I used to bring 2 or 3 worms with me and catch small perch to fish with. I found out by accident that I could put a perch on my hook (I used a stinger hook also) and set the rod across my floater under the velcro straps such that the back of the perch was slightly out of the water. I then fished with another rod that I held. Sooner or later I would see a big bass slowly rise and watch the perch for a few moments. Then it would strike. Always a big bass technique. One day the caretaker was standing on the bank talking with me. Cantankerous old fart you might say. I saw a bass slowly coming up to the perch and told him to watch. The bass took the perch and I landed it. Two weeks later he banned baitfishing. Like I said, cantankerous old fart. He did reverse his decision several months later tho. One day I called to renew my fishing lease. I heard a party going on the background. The guy I was talking to said they had just sold the pit for a million dollars. Broke my heart. I had been fishing that pit for about 15 years. I didn't fish much for several years after that. Late last year I heard about another strip pit about 10 minutes away from where I live. Lucky for me they had a lease open up and I bought it. First trip I didn't catch anything. Second trip I found a good spot and caught several nice bass. After several more trips I had found two spots that always produced numbers of bass and some large ones at that. During the summer I had many trips when I caught 30-50 bass fishing tube worms and Zoom minnows (I think that's what they are called). Shad color. I was using Trilene XL and got my line broke once or twice each trip. I asked at the local bass shop what they used and they suggested Gamma copolymer. I tried that in 12lb. test (which was supposed to be about 22lb test actually) but was still getting my line broke. I was fishing in heavy cover mostly and couldn't let the fish run. I talked with the people at the bass shop and they said use a Palomar knot instead of the improved clinch that I normally used. That helped some but I was still losing large fish. I think it was partly due to me being too lazy to retie after catching several fish and not checking the first 6-8 feet of line to see if there were any bad spots. Dumb. After realizing that I started to land some of those big bass. (9lb. bass have been caught from this pit. My biggest is about 5 1/2.) Finally I bought some Stealth braid and haven't had that break yet. Still using the Gamma and have only had it break 2 or 3 times since. Still fishing from my floater too. Nothing like having a fish turn you in several circles. Great way to fish. After the water started cooling the fishing got a lot worse. A good day was 10 bass. I decided to try my lazy way of fishing using minnow. Woohoo on that. The bass loved those minnows and I started catching 30-50 bass a trip again. I would order 3 dozen minnows at my local bait shop and they always gave me more like 5-6 dozen. If I had any left over I would freeze them. They would be good for about two weeks but after that they would get mushy when thawed. BTW don't salt them when you first freeze them or they get mushy after just a day or two and are hard to keep on the hook. A day before going fishing again I would put some salt on them. The bass loved them that way just as much as live minnows. I should mention most of the bass I am catching are smallmouth. Great fighters. Maybe that's why I was getting my line broke. Sorry for being longwinded but that's my story. BTW anyone have any line recommendations? I would like to try another braid (Power Pro seems to be the hot braid right now) or possibly fluorocarbon (which I have never tried). Darn line is getting expensive nowadays but it's worth it if I don't lose those big smallmouth. Another BTW. I use high vis yellow and the bass don't seem to mind at all. The water in this pit is pretty clear too. I am a line watcher and the high vis helps a lot. Thanks for listening and good fishing. Don't forget the lucky cheese crackers.