KEVIN TATE: Keeping bait alive a challenge under August skies

KEVIN TATE

KEVIN TATE

Live bait and catfishing don’t always go together but, when they do, the results can be exciting. Sometimes, you even catch a few fish as well.

From the moment they’re sold, minnows spend every second looking for a way to die. The bigger they are, the better they are at doing this, too, and we had four dozen of the biggest I’d ever seen in our possession.

Things had been slow in the trotline business for a while when the Old Men got a tip about jug fishing the Talahatchie River. The tip called for big live bait, and we had responded. The minnows we bought were, and I’m not making this up, larger than quite a few of the crappie I’d seen one of my Old Men routinely keep. Making sure they were aerated, shaded, minimally jostled and otherwise maintained alive was a task assigned to me. To help with this, the Old Men had forgotten to bring any of their extensive minnow-pampering gear to the Delta with us, so they bought a disposable styrofoam beer cooler instead. It was rectangular and held about five gallons of water and minnows, which I carefully sloshed and toted from the truck to the boat once the latter was in the water.

Using the handle I reached the box, creaking and threatening to break, onto the first bench in the johnboat while standing on the ground ahead of the bow, then climbed in, set the box on the floor behind the first bench, then slipped and put my hand through the lid all the way to the bottom, crumbing what shade the minnows might have enjoyed.

“That didn’t last long,” one of the Old Men said, eyeing the remains of his recent purchase.

I thought about trying to use the lid anyway jigsaw-puzzle style, but opted to cover them with a spare life jacket instead, which worked surprisingly well.

“Did the box not come with a lid?” the other Old Man asked, having missed the commotion.

“I broke it,” I told him.

“That didn’t last long,” he said and, for once, he and the other Old Man agreed.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.