Tigerback. A term of endearment given to a particular smallmouth bass that haunted the docks of children’s camp I use to work at. Only, myself and 6 other campers, know his name.

Until now, only the 7 of us knew his secret.

I first met Tigerback while practicing some swimming lengths at the camp’s waterfront. Something caught my attention in the shallow end of the waterfront while I exited climbing a wooden, deep-end ladder. A large smallmouth bass was swimming very close to the surface of the water. I could clearly see the ˜tiger-like” formations (at least they looked like that to me) on it’s back as it swam back and forth between the docks.

I named it Tigerback.

After a few minutes of swimming, he disappeared into the murky depths.

Later that week, I managed to call mom to bring me fishing gear. I was going to go tiger hunting. For three afternoons I threw everything I had in my tackle box to try to entice a return visit from ˜Tigerback”. I casted spoons, plugs, jitterbugs, and Mepps around those docks without, so much as, a swirl from its tail.

He became a mild addiction. Captain Ahab would have been proud.

After several days of a fishing, I visited the waterfront again – without my fishing gear. I thought some swimming would get my mind off the behemoth fish. After a relaxing swim, I started to towel off my hair when I noticed Tigerback swimming some victory laps in the shallow end again.

I left the waterfront in disbelief as I watched the wary bass monster swim back out into the river.

Two weeks later I returned with a new battle plan. Six of my campers wanted to try fishing. They had never done it before. We raided the craft cupboard and found some 20lb test line and a package of hooks.

It seems destiny favored the creative.

Then, we found some sturdy sticks that we could tie 6ft lengths of fishing line on to.

The final touch consisted of some worm hunting in the camps flower beds. With a dozen, or so, worms in a coffee mug we marched down the waterfront hill and started fishing with our rustic equipment.

The kids loved it. Their eyes were wide with amazement as perch and sunfish would swarm their hooked bait. I would spend several minutes that afternoon going over the parts of fish, identification, and hook removal procedures.

I forget which kid it was, but suddenly, we had an issue. One of the kids said, “I am hooked on something!”

As we peered over the edge of the dock I saw old ˜Tigerback: with a hook coming out of his mouth. The 6ft line did not leave room for a glorious fight. I simply helped the kid pull the brute out of the water and on to the dock. The kids swarmed around the lucky angler and watched with gaping mouths as I held ˜Tigerback” by his bottom lip and unhooked him from the small hook.

One of the kids remarked that they swim with that thing and hinted that his final afternoons at camp may be spent canoeing and not swimming. With some more questions and pointing, the kids waved to ˜Tigerback” as I released him to the dark depths.

These kids became hooked on fishing from that day forward. That was the secret of old ˜Tigerback”.

No one has seen him since.

I suspect he is still out there.

Somewhere.

If you want to catch him. Take a kid fishing.