4 books are just bait to catch more fish



March 31, 2002|By CANDUS THOMSON

Local anglers looking for an edge this season don't have to look any further than the shelves of their neighborhood bookstores.

Several authors from around these parts spent last year updating or expanding their catalogs, and we're the richer for it. Four books I've scrolled through are real keepers, and I'm sure there are others out there I haven't gotten to yet.

Tinkerers will be thrilled to find a soul mate in Keith Walters, author of The Ingenious Angler.

His book is a combination of practical Lefty Kreh-style tips and bigger do-it-yourself projects that extend the life of tackle and boats and make fishing easier. His latest book is a natural extension of two earlier volumes now out of print, Chesapeake Stripers, and Angler's Workbench.

"I call it a book of solutions. It's a whole range of things you can try for yourself," says Walters, 71, a retired NASA photography guru. "I've borrowed a lot of good ideas in it. This is 50 years of fooling around the workshop."

He can tell you how to turn a simple aluminum skiff into a skinny water bass boat. Or repair a broken rod. Or make a live well.

"How about smooth out my cast?" I ask.

"No, I don't work miracles," he shoots back, teasing (I hope).

But he will tell you how to craft an indestructible bucktail and other alluring lures.

Walters is a man about town on the Eastern Shore, writing outdoors columns for a local paper, teaching fishing seminars and lending his name to sportsmen's causes. He's a stitch to boot. Find a table of people laughing at a banquet and it's a good guess they're laughing as Walters tells a story.

But make no mistake about it, the guy's an excellent fisherman. In 1964, when Maryland inaugurated its sportfishing tournament, Walters won the trophy for the biggest striped bass, a 32 1/2 -pounder, at Love Point.

After he retired, Walters switched his focus from the dark room to the keyboard.

"I backed into writing," he says, laughing. "I always thought I could sell bad writing with good photography."

I didn't keep count, but I'm sure there are enough tips and projects in The Ingenious Angler to keep anyone busy until the next Bush is ready to run for president.

"I'm hoping it's not behind the curve," Walters says. "This is a disposable society. When something breaks or we grow tired of it, we just throw it away and buy a new one. I like fixing tackle and then catching a fish on it!"

Just in time for the season, C. Boyd Pfeiffer has updated his 1975 classic, Shad Fishing.

The Baltimore County author has more than a dozen titles to his credit in addition to hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.

Like Kreh, he lives by the philosophy, "Don't show off what you know, share it."

Call Pfeiffer with a question about tackle or lures, and you can almost hear him pull up a chair so he can take his time with his answers and pass along what he knows. And what he knows is worth remembering, as his updated shad how-to proves.

Pfeiffer says that while a lot of the basics haven't changed, "there's always room for improvements."

"There are new techniques and new flies. There's a lot to say about restoration efforts and environment changes," he explains.

The book has eight pages of color photos of lures and flies, plus an exploration of summer and fall shad fishing.

"You got as much as I know," Pfeiffer says.

That's plenty.

Another Baltimore County angler and author with something new to say is Ann McIntosh.

Her book, Trout Fishing Near American Cities, chooses the best waters near 27 metropolitan areas and leads you right to them.

"It's for the angler who travels and wants to know whether to pack a rod with them. It's an entrM-ie to any of those watersheds," says McIntosh, who calls the Gunpowder her home river.

She learned to cast when she was 9, but soon lost interest. In 1979, when she was "close to 40," McIntosh picked up a fly rod again.

She started down the literary path with her column for the Trout Unlimited magazine called the "Budget Angler." Later, she parlayed that into a book, Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler.

"That propelled me," she says. "I thought about doing a national version. Needless to say, I hadn't written as many columns as I thought I had. So I relied on some contributors."

Members of Trout Unlimited chapters and guides supplied valuable information about access, hatches, best flies, tackle shops, Web sites and local fishing regulations. For good measure, the book has the skinny on where to stay and good places to chow down.

"I hope people have as much fun using it as I did researching it," says McIntosh.

Finally, Ken Penrod, who runs the Beltsville-based fishing and hunting guide service, Life Outdoors Unlimited, has a volume out -- his sixth - that should be a big help to anglers who pursue smallmouth bass.

Penrod has been in the guide business for 20 years, spending about 225 days a year on the water, and a lot of what the fish have taught him is in Pursuing River Smallmouth Bass.

Pick a set of conditions and Penrod will tell you how to get the most from your outing, from selecting tackle and lures to making the correct presentation.

A helpful device is the way he breaks down each season by water temperature, and gives you "situations and solutions" as a way to troubleshoot while you're on the water.

Penrod is often criticized by those who say his advice and weekly fishing report are more like a long list of sponsors. Those folks will have a lot to be unhappy with in this latest book, especially his chapter on lures.

On the other hand, if Penrod finds something that works (and his clients are happy with the results), why not share the wealth? That's one less lure I'm going to fling in the garbage can in disgust. And, as the author notes, "My perfect rig may not be your perfect rig."

So there. Happy reading.

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