For quite awhile, I’ve wanted to revisit one of my most memorable (forgettable!) stories that took place at Don Pedro Reservoir while bass fishing with my Dad back in the late 1970s.
It was spring and while fishing we motored into a shallow little cove surrounded by dense brush – a perfect spot for a big bass! I was running the trolling motor when my Dad says, “Look at that!! It’s a monster !”
Sitting back under the snarled buckbrush, about 15 feet from shore, was the biggest rattler I’d seen outside a reptile zoo! It was about 4 1/2 feet long and so thick it looked more like a python! This was King Kong! I wanted nothing to do with it, but knowing my tough old farmer Dad, I worriedly suspected he had other plans!
“Rog, the launch ramp is close by, we have to do something!” my father pleaded. I knew exactly what he had in mind, and it wasn’t pretty. “Hey, I’ll just cast this topwater plug over the top of it, snag it, reel ’em in and you hit him with the paddle,” Dad suggested, trying to get me to go along. “No way!” I retorted, just as he launched the plug toward the beast.
I watched the arcing lure veer to the right of the snake, passing through all the branches except one small limb. This twig held the line off the ground, just feet from the snake’s head. OK, it missed. I would live after all! That’s when the snake raised its head, flicked out its tongue and slithered toward the hanging lure. “No!!” I screamed, just as Dad lowered the plug and set the hook into the snake about 2 feet below its head. All heck broke loose!
It was a dry sloping side hill, so when it exploded to the right, throwing up clouds of billowing dirt and dust, Dad was able to slowly pull the thrashing beast down the incline and into the water. Did you know rattlers are good, fast swimmers? I do now!
Here’s the picture. I’m in the front of our 18-foot trihull with a walkthrough windshield, working the trolling motor. My Dad is standing/blocking the walkway holding the rod tip as high as possible while reeling in the swimming snake that’s streaking toward the front of the low slung boat where I’m now trapped! I’m tracking the oncoming snake with one eye while using the other to try to frantically crawl over Dad and get away.
I watch in horror as the snake’s momentum slowly swings it like a pendulum up and over the bow where I’m trapped, with my father’s pole working as the fulcrum! Funny, but as the rattler swung within 3 feet of me, I vividly remember seeing on its face that it was genuinely perplexed and confused. Me, too! I’m screaming, as my Dad swings the huge snake now dragging/hanging over the bow back into the water.
I tell him that’s it! But still laughing, he says all we need to do now is hit it – that’s all! Traumatized, I take the paddle and take a whack. But almost paralyzed with fear, I miss completely, spray Dad with water, then slip and almost fall in on top of the darn thing! Shaking, I finally whack the snake a couple of times, then a few more, as it floats in the water.
“OK Rog, just pick it up, it’s dead!” Dad says as I reach over with the net and the “dead” snake suddenly strikes the metal! OMG! “Jason” comes to mind. Dad goes back into action. “Rog, no one’s gonna believe this rattler; if we cut off the head it’ll be OK!”
The snake was coiled around the net as we cut off the head. But when it tried to strike a final time, I collapsed. My father? Still laughing! They told us it would have won the big local rattler contest for the last two years – 4 1/2 feet long with 16 rattles, and we broke off a few.
My Mom and Elaine didn’t hear about it for years! And I never messed with rattlers again. I also never, ever, trusted Dad around snakes again. Never give up!