If you’re a student of bass fishing there’s no doubt you’ve at least heard of Dr. James Alexander Henshall – the father of bass fishing. In 1881, Henshall wrote the first book on the black bass, titled “Book of the Black Bass,” and coined what is without a doubt the most revered quote for the species, “I consider him, inch for inch and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims.”
As stated above, his book was first printed in 1881 by Robert Clarke and Company, Cincinnati, Ohio and was reprinted in 1889, also by Robert Clarke and Company. Then in 1904, the book was revised and reprinted by Stewart and Kidd Company. The book would not be reprinted until Ray Scott and his Bass Anglers Sportsman Society would do so in 1978. Since then it’s been reprinted no less than twice.
Much has been written about Henshall and his contribution to the popularity of the black bass. It’s safe to say that he put micropterus on the map at a time when trout were considered the only game fish of the freshwater and his name is still recognized for that fact.
This brings me to today’s feature, a piece I found much by accident, from an 1883 Century Magazine. It’s a piece Henshall penned only two years after his publication of Book of the Black Bass. The article, aptly titled Black Bass Fishing, is a look at bass fishing in 1883.
The article is written as a story of three men; Professor Silvanus, his disciple Ignatius and what can only be seen as their servant, Luke, about to depart on a trip for a day’s fishing.
From a purely ethics-based standpoint, the article is a bit racist but you also have to take into consideration the time it was written. Conversely, with respect to bass, the story is a full lesson on black bass and discusses the species of black bass, seasonal habits, their distribution and tackle best fitted of the time.
The likely end of the story would be with the professor and his disciple catching some bass, and this does come to pass, but it’s hardly the end. Instead, Ignatius asks the professor about the ways of the Florida angler. In that reply, you’ll see an answer that refers to “skittering and bobbing.” The forerunners of flipping – pre-1883.
The whole article is presented below and for the life of me I have no other recollection of anyone else ever bringing it up. Is it a lost Henshall piece – I have no clue. I do know one thing for certain, it’s damn old.