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Hooked By A Rattler
A “This happened to me” narrative.

           Once whole fishing in Texas with Joe Small and Fred Gipson I watched Fred cast his lure over a swimming rattlesnake and sank it with the lure. I thought this was unusual - fisherman catching a rattler. I never dreamed that a huge diamondback rattler would one day catch me with a fishing plug. Here’s how it happened.

           I was fishing the Myakka River in Florida when I happened to see a made-to-order bass pool just beyond a bed of water hyacinths too thick to get my boat through. Rowing to shore, I found a land path leading around to the pool and cast it from land. On my fourth try, I hooked a lunker of a bass but he shook free of the hook and I was not able to raise him again. I decided to come back after supper for another try by the thin light of a new moon.

           As I grounded the boat that night and pulled the bow ashore prior to taking the trail in the dark, I reached under the front seat, pulled out a pair of rubber knee length boots, dumped the water out of them and slipped them onto my bare feet.

           About half way over the trail to the pool I was about to step over a large log lying across the trail in deep shadow. As I raised my foot to step over I was frozen stiff by the sound of buzzing snake rattle. From the loudness and nearness I knew a large diamond back was lying so close to me he could pick me off any time he chose. The sound left me petrified with horror, desperately figuring an out. I knew that any movement of escape away from the angry coil of death would bring those two-inch fangs into my flesh. I broke out in goose pimples all over.

           My rod was my only weapon. I formulated a desperate plan; if I could get the snake to strike at my lure, hanging from my rod tip, I might be able to leap backward and escape before the reptile could position for a second strike. Paying out line with my thumb, I lowered the lure toward the snake. Nothing happened. I figured the snake might not be able to see the lure, and gave it a slight jiggle, jingling the hooks. At the noise the snake struck immediately.

           I felt a hard blow against my left boot, which was inside my pant leg. His strike was more than I had counted on. It tore the line from under control of my thumb on the reel and had carried the lure clear through to me. I jumped backward to escape, carrying the writhing diamond back with me, pulling heavy on my left leg. Horror of horrors - the snake had not only hooked himself, but my pant leg as well!

           My only chance was to slide out of my pants before the snake freed himself and struck me. With the rod in my left hand I held a tight line to keep the snake’s mouth away from my leg. With my free hand I slipped out of my right pant leg and boot, then my left, made a great leap backward and came down running pant less back to the boat. I bent the oars back toward myself, but it was not the exercise that caused me to arrive dripping with sweat. My fishing companions gave me a bit of razzing about losing my pants and pretended not to believe my story.

           Next morning we all went back to the scene of my night encounter with the big rattler. We found the rod and reel, the heavily trebled lure still tight to the venom soaked pants. The rattler had snagged the line, bent the hooks straight and escaped. I picked up the reel to the line about ten feet from the lure, and left everything as it was, except the boots.

           Examining the left one, we found it severely scratched where the diamond back had horsed the lure around trying to get free - the diamond back driven through my trouser leg and had all but torn through the half rotten boot fabric. Without those boots to protect me, the hooks would surely have caught me in the calf and I could not have escaped without tearing them from the flesh - random venom would have flowed into the wound!

           About ten days later, after several heavy rains had washed away the venom, one of my buddies on that trip showed up with a nine-pound bass and the lure that the snake had hooked me with. He claimed he had recurved the straightened hooks and used it to catch the big bass from the pocked behind the hyacinths!

           That was the only bass I just couldn’t eat a part of. I simply did not have any appetite for it. Every time I thought about it I could feel all over again and hear all over again the thrashing and the buzzing of that big diamond back locked to my leg by fishhooks.

© 2003 Chronicles of Bob