The world’s best fishing bait


The blood-curdling scream was heard throughout all of Flamingo Street. It was heard all the way up to the first house on the right, a dilapidated white clapboard home with an overgrown front yard that served as the residence of the meanest kid on the street known as Down the Street Bully Brad. The screaming got his attention. Not because of the suffering behind it, but more because he wasn’t the originator of it.

As if it were a living thing, the screaming reached down Flamingo, down the great hill and through the cul-de-sac. There, tending roses in front of the only house, third-grade teacher Old Mrs. Crabtree dropped her pruning clippers as the screaming reached down and pulled her up from bended knee. She stood, her teacher radar now on high alert. Her ears had detected the shrieking of a child in great pain.

Without any thought for her own safety, she moved in direction of the screaming. On windy spring days, sounds of the street carried easily, and with each breeze more sounds of pain flowed into her ears. She quickened her steps, not knowing if she was already too late to save the child.

Me? I heard the screaming also. Being so close to the source, it was impossible to hear anything else. I also knew of the origin. How could I not? It was standing right behind me, so close it reached out and grabbed my shoulder. There was no need to turn around; I already knew what had happened.

Who had inflicted such pain? It was me, but there was no time to fret about all the blood now. Right in front of us, 20 feet out on top of the placid fishing lake located behind our house, the red and white fishing bobber suddenly, and violently, disappeared beneath the surface. Goliath had taken the bait.

World record for a largemouth bass is just over 22 pounds. Flamingo Street legend had Goliath weighing much more, perhaps as much as 40 pounds. Over the years, my three brothers and I, we all had seen the silver flash of its tail, but none of us had hooked the monster. Not even a nibble.

That is until now. The unique bait we used that day must’ve been what Goliath was waiting for, but he wasn’t going to be landed without a fight. My pole bent to the breaking point as fishing line played out with a whine of the reel. With blood trailing down both of us, Older Brother Richard grabbed hold of the pole just as it was being ripped from my hands. Goliath broke the water for the first time in a mighty twisting leap, and we held our breaths at the enormity of the legendary fish.

Disappearing only for seconds before breaking the surface of the water again and again, the monster fought the hook. Goliath somehow knew it couldn’t shake loose underwater. This world record largemouth bass weighing 40 pounds versus my brother and me at a combined weight of 170 — surely the fish would have no chance.

We struggled to keep hold of the rod and tried in vain to set the hook. It seemed like an eternity. One of those rare moments in time when everything around you fades from view, giving you singularity of clarity needed to focus in on only the task at hand.

Spectacular leaps out of the water one right after the other exposed the true size of the monster as it shook a massive head violently in a fight to unseat the hook. The ear-piercing screaming heard up and down Flamingo that started the struggle had finally subsided now replaced by painful grunts and moans. The fight raged on, a fight Goliath would finally win some 20 long minutes later.

Old Mrs. Crabtree arrived to find Richard and me lying on the bank. We were completely exhausted, still breathing heavily from our historic struggle and covered in blood. As she helped us back to the house, we told her what had happened, the unique bait and ensuing struggle with Goliath. Her eyes seemed to widen and fill with fear with each step we took.

Once home, Mom treated the open wound the best she could and called for an ambulance. Dad sent me to my room to think about what I had done and to give him time to come up with a punishment suitable for such an offense. In my room I did have time to think. Think about how I could get more of that bait.

It has been over 50 years since our now legendary struggle with Goliath. No one on Flamingo has come anywhere close to landing the great fish like we did. Only a silvery flash of that mighty tail has been seen. Though I’ve been on many of fishing trips since, Older Brother Richard has never joined me on any of them. Guess I really can’t blame him for that. He still carries a jagged scar to remind him of that day.

At every tackle and fishing supply house I’ve visited since Flamingo, I’ve asked the same question of all the proprietors: Do they have any of that unique bait we used so many years ago? Some shrink back in horror at the inquiry. Others give a look of puzzlement. But most just laugh and then tell of a similar story from their youth.

With warmer weather now upon us, it’s time to break out the fishing rod. Yes, I still have that same one from my youth. It’s stored right next to two others, both of which are pink. They belong to my new fishing buddies, our two granddaughters Little One and Sweet Caroline. Unlike Richard, they can’t wait to go fishing with me. And unlike Richard, I’ll make sure they are far away to my side and aren’t behind me when I cast the line.

So next time you’re in a bait shop, ask for the best largemouth bass bait in the world: Bottom Lip Bait. Because even though there’s an excellent chance we could finally land Goliath, Older Brother Richard still won’t give me anymore of his.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]