I was way up North, not quite to the Arctic Circle but close enough. Even in late May there was only a narrow strip of open water between the shore and the ice covering most of the lake. The little cove that sheltered the town's boats in summer was open. Around midnight there was still enough light outside that I saw three kids lying on their stomachs at the end of the wharf in the cove. They were each pitching lines into the shadow underneath and would regularly pull out a good sized silvery fish that they would snatch off the line and toss in a bucket. Every now and then a fish would drop back in the water before it could be secured. I was curious what kind of gear they were using that allowed such quick collection of their catch. I walked over and stood by them a while trying to see it without interrupting. Fortunately for me one of them drew up the courage to talk to this stranger in town and asked where I was from. I told him and then asked how they were catching fish at such a phenomenal pace. He seemed surprised that I was impressed by their activity. He said the bite was a bit slow. "How do you get them off the hook so quickly?" I asked. "We aren't using a hook" he said. "Just bait?" I asked. He seemed very confused that I did not know what they were using so he decided to just show me. They were using small white pebbles tied into a basket woven out of fishing line. The fish were just grabbing at this white flotsam in the dark water under the dock. They would hold onto it long enough that a fast kid could whip them out and into the bucket. Some let go early and escaped. I don't know how long they had been there but their bucket was nearly full and I figured they would have to cooperate to get it home.
Nearly 20 years later, every time I visit Bass-Pro and look over the fancy, expensive lures I remind myself of the day I watched a bunch of kids catch a lot of fish with nothing but rocks and line. But I still buy too many lures because I just can't bring myself to rely on that method. Perhaps I need to try to become a kid again.