Editor’s note: Each December we feature the Real Women of Northwest Fishing in our year-end magazine issue, and here are stories from the 2021 edition!
By Summer Dunn
I first shared my lifelong affair with fishing in the 2014 edition of Northwest Sportman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing. Since then, that little bump in my belly pictured in that edition was born and has turned into quite the fisherman himself.
Rusten caught a 4-pound largemouth in one of our ranch ponds in Oklahoma when we visited my family last spring. He casted, caught and landed that fish on the ol’ trusty Zebco 33.
We’ve since returned home to Idaho, where we live near the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers, which is the setting for this next fishing story.
It took me a while, but I eventually realized landing a very small fish is often much harder than landing a fatty. By that I mean the skill needed to keep a tiny fish on a hook that’s made for a fish three times its size – now that’s skill, or maybe just luck. I was pretty proud of one short smallmouth I landed while participating in a fishing tournament this past August on the Snake River in Hells Canyon. I missing winning for smallest fish caught by a whole half an inch. The smallest fish caught was 4.5 inches.
THE BACK STORY: I was participating with a group of ladies in the “Haul In Bass” tournament, sponsored by Hammer Down River Excursions. The goal was to catch as many bass as possible in an eight-hour window, with the counting stopped promptly at 5 p.m.
Our day didn’t start so great, as one of our fishergals became ill and wasn’t able to participate. The major problem with losing a fishergal is that a boat could have up to 10 anglers and the more you have, obviously the better for total catch. Right off the bat we were down to seven women and already knew that at that time, the team in first place had caught a total of 592 smallmouth and they had eight anglers, so we were starting behind the 8-ball. I literally calculated the number of bass we each needed to catch to beat 592: 10.5 bass per hour.
By noon our numbers were looking horrible. It had been a terribly slow morning and we had only caught about 100 fish. It was a bummer because we were really trying and weren’t just a team that came out to drink away the day (though I may have used that excuse to recruit a couple of friends).
We were about ready to call it a day and start checking out swimming holes to beat the 102-degree heat and the wildfire smoke when bam! we hit a school and it didn’t stop after that. We fished our hearts out, not taking any time to eat or drink – the deck boys literally opened our drinks for us while we continued to fish.
Cast after cast, bass after bass, we started closing the gap between 100 fish and 592. We did not rest the entire day – there was no lazy-river boozing for Team “Tap That Bass.” (Yes, that was our team name.) By 5 p.m. our total was 440 and it was a hard-earned 440. We ended up in fourth place overall but we also had the fewest anglers, so we’ve convinced ourselves if it was ratio scoring, we would’ve been on the podium (lmao).
ONE OF THE best parts of the trip was spending a day on the river with the ladies, some of whom had never fished a day in their life. True story: I invited/begged my girlfriend who has never fished, promising her a good time, and she ended up with the biggest fish caught by a female. Her prize was a Traeger! I was a bit bitter about that, but we’ve set up a shared custody agreement, with occasional payments of smoked meat.
There’s just something primordial about fishing. The tug on the line and dopamine released when that happens – to me, it’s one of the coolest examples of evolution. It also makes it easy to understand the reference to “addiction” when it comes to fishing.