We asked. You answered. In what may be one of the most epic fish tales I’ve ever heard, I’m happy to share the story that Mike Jacksson of Fort Kent passed along.
First, the short backstory: A few weeks ago, after David Baker caught a bass while using a Bangor Daily News novelty key chain as a lure. Cool, I thought. But he can’t be alone. Other folks have surely used some odd fishing lures over the years.
I was right.
“You told the tale of the key chain that was MacGuyver’d into a lure to catch a big ol’ bass,” Jacksson said in a letter. “The accompanying photo left me with the impression that bass will tackle anything, even if it looks like Gumby from the ‘60s.
“You ended your article asking about what we used that was weird to catch fish,” Jacksson said. “Well, go refill your coffee mug and have a seat. I have a tale for you.”
Did he ever.
“Long ago, I was in the Air Force and stationed down south a ways at Loring Air Force Base,” Jacksson said. “Had a great job, working on those KC-135 tankers. They worked us fairly, and we had plenty of time off. Time off meant time to fish, hunt and spend time outdoors.”
One day, with a bit of time to himself, Jacksson decided to head out toward the weapons storage area at Loring — an area that even nonmilitary folks assumed held weapons of the nuclear variety. On that section of the base was Butterfield Pond, which was known to hold brook trout.
“The road crosses the stream on the southeast end of the pond and is within sight of the Entry Control Point of the weapons control area,” Jacksson said. “Now, understand that there were some big guys patrolling that area. Sometimes they had German shepherds that could have propagated Cujo and the like, but those dogs were inside the gate. Lucky me.”
Jacksson said the area was off-limits to most, and the roving security police checked out visitors. Therefore, Butterfield Pond received very little fishing pressure.
“Well, I parked my pickup well clear of the road and got out to go fish, only to realize that I had left all of my fishing gear home from the previous weekend,” he said. “No worms, no rod, no anything. Well, that issue had to be resolved.
“I spotted an awful mess of monofilament [fishing line] all tangled up in a clump of alders,” he said. “I worked the tangle loose and found the hook at one end … getting there. Over by the culvert, I spotted an old, dried 4- or 5-foot branch that had been gnawed off by a beaver. Well, I had slowly worked out about 12 to 15 feet of mono from the tangled mess, and I put that to the working end of my alder pole. Wasn’t pretty, but MacGyver would have given me two thumbs up.”
Nearly ready to fish, Jacksson started looking for bait.
“I flipped up rocks and some rotting logs looking for worms or any kind of bugs. Nothing. Everything was too dry,” he said. “I spent all this time rigging line and rod, I was going to find bait or else. [I kept] poking around and then I saw … and then I looked up when I heard a slight crunch in the gravel to my right.”
Jacksson had company.
“Two security police had seen me pull into the area and saw my parked pickup. Through their binoculars, they saw me dubbing around by the brook and the culvert. Bending over and grubbing in the dirt. Working with my hands on something they couldn’t see. They saw me with a stick in my hands. No fishing rod. No can of worms. Fear factor must have triggered them to call in backup from the roving patrol,” Jacksson said.
Jacksson said he doesn’t think the security patrol had any real idea of what he was doing. He was acting suspiciously, he’ll admit.
“Well, when I straightened up and saw them sneaking in on short final, I had just picked up an old, discarded Slim Jim beef stick wrapper,” Jacksson said. “You know the one — long and skinny about the diameter of a pen. Yup. They caught me, red-handed, with the evidence in my hand. A Slim Jim wrapper.”
Jacksson produced his military ID and his on-base fishing permit, but he said the security patrol was unconvinced. Knowing that the duo would have to explain what they’d found, Jacksson decided to prove his story wasn’t a fish tale.
“I took out my pocket knife and whittled off a piece of plastic from the Slim Jim wrapper,” he said. “You know the colors — red and yellow. I cut a sliver maybe a half-inch by a quarter-inch and put it on the hook. I figured the flash of the red and yellow would attract a brookie.
“I swung that rigging into the little pool right next to the culver, and we saw a flash,” he said. “The SPs went slack-jawed and quiet.”
Jacksson swung a nice brook trout ashore, took it off the hook, and swung the Slim Jim back into action.
“Bam! This one was even bigger. Two nice big brookies from the front yard of the largest repository of ‘classified materials’ on the East Coast,” he said.
That’s when he decided it was time to pack up and leave.
“Some folks play ‘another hand’ until they’re broke,” Jacksson said. “I figured it best to quit while I was way ahead. I laid my rigging up against an alder and said to the SPs that I was leaving it there for the next guy, and that two was enough for a meal.”
As he drove away, he glanced in the mirror and saw that one of the security men had the Slim Jim lure in hand, while the other was holding the tree-branch fishing rod.
“Now, I’ll let you judge how Gumby works bass, but I am here to tell you that brookies have a taste for Slim Jims,” he concluded. “It’s all in the presentation.”