It’s A Guides Life For Me: 5 Wild Moments From 50+ Years Of Fishing

This blog is brought to your by legendary fishing guide John Neporadny Jr.

My memories of fishing trips tend to fade after about 60 years of spending time on lakes, rivers and ponds throughout the United States and some other countries.  

I have been keeping a fishing log since 1981 so I do have some help at recalling various highlights and lowlights of my times on the water. Those times have included some exhilarating thrills of big fish catches and hair-raising moments I would rather forget. 

Here are five of my wildest moments from a lifelong span on the water. 

Walking On Water

When reminiscing about old fishing trips, my uncle likes to joke about the time when he saw me walk on water. During a fishing trip with my dad and uncle at Clearwater Lake in Missouri back in the 1970s, we headed up river in pursuit of spawning white bass. 

After I made an errant cast and hung my lure in a bush on the river bank, I was unable to jerk the lure loose so I asked my dad to take the boat to the bank. When the boat got close to the bank I jumped out not knowing it was an undercut mud bank that caved in as soon as I landed on it.  With the cold water rapidly rising towards my mid-section, I shifted my legs into high gear and flew out of the water onto dry land in an instant.  My dad and uncle got a good laugh out of my miraculous feat and I got my lure back. 

Duck Pond Shoot

One of the greatest days of fishing I ever had was with my dad at Carlyle Lake in Illinois back in the 1970s.  We were fishing a drainage chute of a duck pond where it flowed into the Kaskaskia River and were catching white bass every time we cast our jigs into the chute. I actually got tired of catching whites so I took a walk up to the duck pond which was drained down to the size of a swimming pool. 

While making short casts with my jig I started catching crappie every time my lure hit the water.  I had trouble casting to the other side with the light jig so I tied on a spoon to throw all the way across the pond and started catching largemouth bass. After catching a few more bass, I ran down to the drainage chute and told my dad to come up to the pond with me where we continued to hammer both bass and crappie.

There were no limits on white bass and crappie during those days, so when we were done fishing, the bottom of our 14-foot johnboat was filled with more than 100 crappie and white bass and a limit of six bass weighing 2 to 4 pounds. 

Muy Grande Bass

The biggest bass I ever caught was on my first trip to El Salto Lake in Mexico.  

While fishing with Berkley pro staff manager Brian Thomas, we started catching 3- to 4-pound bass that were busting tilapia in the middle of the lake. I was throwing a deep-diving Berkley crankbait and I told Thomas I was going to throw past the busting fish and crank down the lure as fast as I could to get it past the surfacing fish to any bigger bass that might be lurking below. 

My cast went beyond the surface activity and I cranked quickly to get the lure deeper, then it stopped as if it were hung up. But then I felt a head shake and the fish surged to the surface and jumped. When I saw it I yelled to the guide:  “Net. Net. Muy grande.”   The fish made a run for the flooded timber but I was able to keep it from hanging in the wood.  After a short fight I got the fish to the surface and the guide netted my 12-pound, 7-ounce trophy largemouth. 

Crash On The Coosa

During a Hobie writers trip to Alabama, we spent a day floating the Coosa River fishing from Hobie kayaks. The river had one section of tricky rapids so we were accompanied by a couple of jet-driven bass boats in case anyone elected to ride the rapids in the boats rather than the kayaks.

I was an inexperienced kayaker so I decided to ride the rapids in the jet boat, which was a mistake. As we shot through the rapids, the boat crashed into a boulder just below the surface. The impact threw the driver over the driver’s console and threw a cameraman out of his seat onto the floor of the boat. I was sitting on the floor with my back to the raised front deck so my back hit the deck hard. 

The boat was precariously stuck on the boulder and the current was starting to push the stern down into the water so we all scurried to the bow to keep the boat from swamping. Fortunately another jet boat was fishing below the rapids and we were able to wave to them for help. They ran over to our boat and threw us a rope. 

After getting pulled off the boulder, we watched as the rest of the guys smoothly navigated through the rapids in the kayaks.  I got back in my kayak and fished for a while but my sore back forced me to get back in the jet boat. 

Nasty Weather Brown

Thanks to a snowstorm at home this past February I had to stay an extra day at Lake Taneycomo in Missouri and caught my biggest brown trout. 

A Conservation Federation of Missouri media camp at Lilley’s Landing had ended but when my wife said the highways back home were in bad shape due to a snowstorm I decided to stay there an extra day. My friend Scott Pauley was also staying an extra day so we decided to go fishing after breakfast.  

While fishing we were pelted with snow and then sleet that covered the floor of the boat.  I was jerking a rainbow-trout color suspending stickbait when the lure came to an abrupt halt and I saw a large brown flash.  The fish rolled several times in the heavy current and made a couple of lunges under the boat.  I finally got it to the surface and Pauley deftly netted the fish that looked like a 20-pounder. 

We raced back to Lilley’s Landing and had it weighed on a certified scale. The brown trout weighed 13 pounds, 8 ounces and was 29 inches long.  When Duane Doty, one of the guides at Lilley’s Landing, looked at my stickbait that he had hand-painted, he noticed two of the hooks on the front treble were straightened out by that brute fish.

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