The last time John Hauserman and I departed from the Fishing Center on Loch Raven reservoir, the temperature was in the 50s, a northwest wind was slapping the surface into whitecaps and the fishing seat in the bow of his jon boat broke its fittings before we left the dock.
The 11 months since seem to have been good to Hauserman. The spinning and bait-casting gear he carries is new, the seats in his jon boat are securely anchored, and soon he plans to be in pictures -- a video explaining where, when and how to fish Loch Raven.
The video, which still is in production, has the potential to be an invaluable aid to those fishing Loch Raven for the first time, or to those who have fished the reservoir for years without much success.
Hauserman is something of a quiet guy, one of those people who has an almost impish sense of humor, and we have an understanding: He catches bass often, and bass sometimes catch me.
Last Wednesday, Hauserman led me out again in search of the elusive bass. The temperature was near 80, the sky bright and the waters of Loch Raven clear.
This time, the area to be fished was the lower reservoir, around Feather Island and well into Hampton Cove, where the bass were into their spawn. Last year we had fished from the Log Jam above the Dulaney Valley Bridge down the western shore to Dead Man's Cove.
This year, Hauserman said, the lower reservoir seems to be holding better fish than the upper part.
Initially, we spent a little time with spinnerbaits in Goetze's Cove, where a handful of other fishermen had gathered.
One angler, anchored near shore a short way inside the south point at the mouth of the cove, was doing well on crappie, which have moved in to spawn among the stumps. The other two boats of fishermen were working the submerged beds of willow and doing poorly.
Because there was little wind to disturb the surface of the water, Hauserman rerigged with 5-inch, dark-red plastic worms that were flecked with blue sparkle.
"Days like this," Hauserman said, "with clear water and a bright sun, you really need the wind to break up the surface where there isn't cover overhead.
"Bass are very aware of predators, and when the water is still and clear they stay very close to cover."
The worms Hauserman rigged were fished on the bottom near stumps, drop-offs and submerged foundations in 6 to 12 feet of )) water, where the bass felt more secure and were more willing to move out to seize a bait. They also were used along shorelines where trees, willows and woody rubble crowded the shallows.
The idea was to cast into the willows or to the deeper sides of stumps, drop-offs or foundations and let the worm sink with the bail of the reel left open.
On the drop, the tail of an artificial waves enticingly, and the fall is slow enough to allow a fish to become interested. Once the worm had reached bottom, the rod tip would be twitched slightly, worked a few feet along the bottom and retrieved to be cast again.
"Much of the time," Hauserman said, "the fish will take the worm on its way down, suck it in and then spit it out. The hook has to be set before the worm is spit out."
As we neared the lower tip of Feather Island, a light wind had come up, blowing pollen from the trees as thick as smoke. Along the shoreline, a couple of dozen geese were nesting, and they set up a terrific honking as we passed. In the shallows, 6-inch bass spooked and streaked for cover, and a goldfish big enough to star in a Japanese horror movie skulked among the shadows.
Along the westernmost side of Feather Island, Hauserman was catching bass, although most were small.
The foundations west of Feather Island in the lower sections of Hampton Cove proved barren, and we moved on to the points and coves along the southern shore.
While Hauserman was hooking bass, I was getting strikes but moving too slowly to set the hook. Hauserman was kind enough to stifle most of his laughter, but finally suggested an unweighted rig he said would ensure a quick feel of the fish. He was right, and nothing could have been simpler.
Without a lead head on the hook, the worm was a little harder to cast, but distance was not needed. By midafternoon, we had moved into the shadow of the southwestern banks in Hampton Cove and were casting from perhaps 30 feet off the shoreline.
In one 50-yard stretch of shoreline, Hauserman quickly picked up two bass between two and three pounds and pointed to the back of a small cove.
"Try the deep side of the X made by those two small [submerged] trees," he said. "I'll bet this boat there is a bass in there."
The worm went in and fluttered down. The bass hit, broke water -- and slipped the hook.
A few feet to the left, another bass hit and was brought in. A few feet to the right, another banged the worm, broke water twice and jumped the hook.
Had we been keeping score during those three or so hours of fishing time, the line score might have read: Hauserman, 12 hits, 12 runs, no errors; Baker, six hits, one run, five errors.
B6 But there is little question who had the most fun.
Hauserman runs Maryland Bass Guide (882-2307), which offers bass and crappie trips on Loch Raven and Conowingo reservoirs.