September 10, 2010
On my way back from the Northern Open on Lake Champlain, I received a call from BASS photographer Seigo Saito. Serving as an interpreter for a Japanese production company, he wanted to know if I would appear in two episodes of Japan’s top-rated fishing show, Fishing Traveler. I knew the production team well and enjoyed working with them in the past, so I eagerly accepted.
The project would include bass and inshore saltwater fishing near my home in north-central Florida, and they wanted to begin filming as soon as possible. That meant no recovery time from my trip to New York. Instead, I’d be pre-fishing and making arrangements for the project.
Iga The Great
Shoji “Iga” Igarashi heads his own production company called Video Rec, one of Japan’s top producers of outdoor programming. Over the past 15 years I’ve worked with them on a variety of projects, including TV shows, videos and commercials—Shimano was always the sponsoring company behind each effort.
Iga is one of the most creative cameramen in the business. He’s won many awards for his work in film, including specials covering other sports like the Winter Olympics.
Iga is like a human gyro, able to assume any position necessary to capture the shot he’s after. The camera he carries is like a cinder block and he weighs 135 pounds soaking wet. At his size, carrying one of those on his shoulder all day ain’t easy. No matter how rough the conditions get, Iga always gets the shot.
Besides his skills with a camera, Iga is also a great guy to be around. He’s an absolute comedian, and despite the language barrier, my two sons think he’s hilarious. He makes everything fun.
Iga arrived at our home, beat from a 20-hour transoceanic trek. With a serious case of jetlag setting in and an early start planned for the following morning, he went right to sleep. My plan was to start on Orange Lake. Fishing had been outstanding the past few weeks and I believed we might score on a couple of big fish to start things right.
Orange Lake Monster
We arrived later than I wanted to. The early bite was about over, but we started with topwaters anyway, hoping to score a big surface strike for the camera.
Ten minutes in, it happened—a 6-pounder destroyed a Zoom Horny Toad as it raced across some topped-out hydrilla. As always, Iga captured the strike and the battle all the way to the boat. We were off to a great start!
In the next half hour, we caught numerous other fish on top, mostly in the 2- to 3-pound range. The strikes were awesome. By 8:30am, the topwater bite was done, so I picked up a flipping stick and started pitching to lily pads choked with hydrilla.
My youngest son Trevor was with us and anxious to score a fish or two for the camera. While advising him on the finer points of flipping, I pitched a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog into a group of pads slightly ahead of the boat—the entire clump shook. My line tightened and I swung back hard. Trevor yelled, “Dad, you got one!”
As quickly as I set the hook, a giant bass pulled the rod back down, plowing back and forth through the field of pads. By the time I got her unraveled from all the stems and back to the boat, Trevor was on his knees ampin’, anxious to grab the fish.
When the fish finally broke the surface, Trevor hesitated. I shouted out, “Grab her!”
Reaching cautiously, Trevor quickly withdrew as the giant fish thrashed the surface, thrusting itself back beneath a thick cluster of pads. Again, I pulled her boatside. This time Trevor grabbed the monster’s jaw with both hands, pulling her up and over the gunnel.
“Oh my God, Dad! Oh my God!”
Trevor strained lifting the behemoth fish for the camera. Iga managed a thumbs-up while focusing in on a tight shot. He too was stunned by what had just transpired.
An hour into the shoot and we had a six and one well over 11-pounds on camera. Yowza!
Heat Wave Hits
Florida summers are brutal. If there’s no wind or cloud cover, temperatures can soar to the upper 90s before noon. Add to that the humidity and you get what meteorologists refer to as “heat index”, a combination of heat and humidity. On this day, the heat index easily exceeded 110 degrees.
Ask anyone visiting from the desert southwest which they would prefer—dry heat or humid heat—and they’ll take the desert every time.
By noon the action was over with, so I suggested we take a break at the Eagle’s Nest Café located near the ramp, in the southwest corner of the lake.
The café is part of a large lakeside recreational development conceived by former big-league baseball manager, Davey Johnson. Now owned by Morgan Property Management, the resort has been enhanced to include golf, camping, shooting sports, and of course, fishing. The facility offers cabins and an upscale RV park, and there are two large club houses and a huge pool for group gatherings as well. Best of all, it’s hidden away in one of Florida’s most beautiful and secluded areas.
We spent most of the afternoon lounging in the café, waiting for the temperature to fall. Finally, around 4pm, we ventured back onto the water, hoping for an evening bite. Other than a few more small fish, however, the shoot was pretty much a wrap by noon. I told Iga we should start before sunrise the next day.
Rainbow In The Sun
Taking Trevor’s place, my eldest son Daniel came along for the early morning bite. My plan was to start on Orange Lake, then, when the sun got up, drive south to Rainbow River and try our luck there.
Like the day prior, the topwater fish were on. Daniel and I alternated between buzzbaits and Horny Toads. I used a Hildebrandt HeadBanger in the thicker stuff, and Gary’s buzzer over open water. The fish were willing but tough to hook. Between the two of us, we lost more than we caught. By 10am we had only a few 2-pounders each to show for our efforts. The sun was beginning to bake, so I told Iga we were changing venues.
Rainbow River is a stream that feeds the Withlacoochee River just above Lake Rousseau. Since the river is spring fed, its year-round temperature is in the mid 70s. With any kind of a breeze blowing across the river’s surface, air temps can stay well below that of the surrounding landscape.
Neither Daniel nor Iga had ever been to Rainbow River. They were amazed at its clarity and the numbers of fish swimming freely below the boat. In no time we were sight casting to bass stationed along the river’s many eddy breaks.
Cypress trees line one side of the stream, while docks and seawalls make up the other. Restricted development has helped Rainbow remain somewhat pristine. By day’s end Daniel and I had caught a multitude of small bass and one about 5 pounds. It was a relaxed day of fishing, filming, and even a bit of swimming.
*Click Here for Part Two of Bernie's Filming Project with Iga!