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Peter D

Smith -Haag Story

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In keeping with stories from the old days consider several Bob Smith vs Charlie Haag mini squabbles.

I realize that those less mature in years may have been a bit young at that time, or perhaps not yet been fishing in the 50’s and 60’s, but all may find this of interest.

In was 1959 or 1960 on an early June night on the dock at Cuttyhunk. Smith and I were preparing for the night trip to troll the rip called the Pigs and Sows (usually just called the Pigs), southwest of Cuttyhunk. It was so foggy that while standing on the dock one could barely see tied up boats. I heard a low chug-chug and along came Charlie Haag taking two of his sports out to troll in the Pigs

Charlie looked up and saw Bob and I standing on the dock and began with his typical sarcastic mocking. He hollered to Smith, “you too chicken of the fog to fish at night”? Then he motored off to fish. Neither Bob nor I said a word to Haag, nor to each other. Later that night we left and trolled the Pigs, picking up a 50 lb’r among a number of other big bass.

While on the rip there usually were about 6 boats trolling in late May and June, when the big bass fed at night on the rips- Pigs, Quick’s Hole and Devil’s Bridge (off Gay Head). These boats had to cooperate with each other while trolling. Typically, each boat would work the edge of the rip from one end to the other, monel lines out “dragging” in the rip, Then the lead boat turned and all would reverse the direction along the rip. One was never stationary in the rip. Since the boats were working perpendicular to the rip, all depended on the lead boat to change direction and work the other direction back along the rip, while others followed. This was so the last boat would not be jammed at the far edge of the rip unable to make the return. Smith and Haag would play a “jamming” game when they happened to be along side each other trolling. The boat whose obligation was to change direction would not turn until the very last moment, thereby jamming the other nearly off the rip. The payback would come at the other edge when the roles would be reversed. There were times when I could almost touch Haag’s boat gunnel we were so close – Smith and Haag never said a word to each other except to quietly curse.

If a big bass was on, the boat would idle off and on while backing down the rip fighting the fish. Here’s where the skipper would need to know the rip like the back of his hand. In backing down the rip one would be drifting near some big boulders known to take out quite a few boats of the uninitiated. Lines were not let out too far so a boat could “get around” the one fighting a fish without getting hung up in the others prop. It got dicey when 3 or 4 boats had bass on at the same time. But it always seemed to work out. One could always determine if a fish was on by that boat easing down into the rip.

We used 60 lb test monel and 80 lb test backing with 3/0 and 4/0 reels since we could not play around fighting a fish too long near all those rock in a fast moving and choppy rip. The interesting and forgiving feature of the Mackenzie bass boats was their ability to handle a following sea. (At another time I’ll describe almost losing my boat, if not my life and my son’s, in a following sea at the mouth of the Merrimac).

After landing a fish one would find a spot back in the line, often next to a new trolling neighbor. Note that the rip was usually roaring with a big chop and strong current – and it was best fished with no moon or when cloudy. The meaner the rip the better the fishing. When the rip flattened out, beginning near the end of the tide, the big fish would move off the rip. The rips at Quick’s and Devil’s Bridge would be similarly fished-except they never seemed as crowded as the Pigs.

Interesting by the end of June the big fish would leave the rips and could be found along the beaches, again at night. The only time we fished during the day was in October and early November, when the big bass returned to the rips to feed before heading south.

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Thanks for sharing a story from the past. On how it used to be and like all else has etched its memories into the annuls of King Neptune's evolution of time.  

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