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Introducing Mongo, a largemouth bass caught last year with a fixed line rod. For perspective, the purple thing in the fish’s mouth is about 2 inches long. Photo by Patrick L. Sullivan

Introducing Mongo: Fixed line meets big fish

Tangled Lines

The last few years I have spent more and more time using the telescoping, fixed line, no-reel fly rods that come under the umbrella term “Tenkara.”

Devotees spend hours arguing the nuances and nomenclature for different kinds of fixed line rods, and since few of them speak Japanese I suspect they are still missing something.

For our purposes, I will stick with “fixed line.”

This is not the same as a cane pole. Even the cheapest fixed line rod is a surgical instrument compared to a cane pole. And you can’t collapse a cane pole and stick it in your pack or pannier.

Last August, while fishing a private lake that contains largemouth bass, pickerel, crappie, assorted panfish and the occasional lobster, I decided to get a couple of fixed line rods that are designed for carp fishing.

One is 18 feet long and the other 15 and change.

From a seated position in a pontoon boat, the 18 footer proved to be too much.


Because an 18 foot rod with a 15 foot line plus another couple of feet of sturdy tippet is a lot more than a medium-sized angler who wears a 33 inch sleeve in dress shirts can deal with when bringing a 4 pound, irritated fish to the 38 inch net.

If that’s too much math, let me put it this way: I’d need another yard’s worth of arm to net this fish.

With the 15 foot rod, I put on a 12 foot furled line with a sinking tip and about two feet of  1X tippet.

To that I tied a heavy streamer called the Bass Vampire. It sinks fast, is about 2 inches long and is a violent shade of purple, with yellow eyes. Think Minnesota Vikings color scheme.

From the pontoon boat, which is basically a floating chair powered by oars and/or swim fins, I lobbed the Vampire in and around a line of boulders that provide cover for sun-shy bass.

Then there was one of those,“Darn it, I’m hung up” moments, closely followed by “No, that’s a fish!”

Unlike their smallmouth counterparts, largemouth bass give up fairly easily. This one put up a bit of a fuss, enough to bend the rod to the point where I was glad it only cost 30 bucks.

Then it very sportingly jumped out of the water and hung there long enough to see that this was a pretty impressive specimen.

Then and there, I named it “Mongo.”

The acrobatics took the fight out of Mongo, and I was able to haul him in — by handlining — without incident. (This is where I miss having a reel.)

He obligingly stayed still in the water by the boat, giving me a reproachful look while I fumbled with the camera.

Mission accomplished, I removed the Vampire from his jaw, noticing that if I wanted to I could have stuck my fist in his mouth without encountering tissue.

This was a big fish.

Mongo swam off and I resumed the hunt.

My perseverance paid off a few minutes later when I hooked Mongo’s kid brother, Mingo.

Fishing with a fixed line rod is fun. It’s different. It’s a nice option to have.

And since the rods are so portable, there’s no reason not to have one handy for the occasional Mongo.

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