Fishing for sauger is a favorite winter pastime in the Mid-South where I live. One of the best spots for fishing them is the tailrace below Pickwick Dam, on the Tennessee River, near Counce, Tenn.
There, in the coldest of weather, an armada of boats loaded with anglers dressed like Nanook of the North float together and bounce sauger jigs off the bottom trying to catch these tasty fish.
It is also here that the Goodyear Minnow was born.
What's the Goodyear Minnow, you ask?
It's a lure my good friend Bill Bellis came up with, almost on a dare, in a time that the young folks now refer to as "back in the day."
Now back then Bellis was the owner of the Bellis Botel, an engineer's boat turned into a hotel and restaurant. It's still located downriver from the dam. He and I fished a lot together, and one winter we had really been catching the sauger.
We had been taking lead tire weights, used for balancing tires, and melting them down to mold for various jigs and fishing weights. That's when it came to Bill that he could turn one into a sauger lure.
"Why, I think these sauger will hit a tire weight," Bellis said. And with that, he took one, flattened it out a bit, bored holes in each end, and put in metal O-rings. One held a treble hook and the other was used as the line tie. He painted some silver and others gold, and what do you know, the darn things worked.
Well, after that, I started calling the lure the "Goodyear Minnow."
We got a good laugh out of it. And we got an even bigger kick out of telling folks that asked what we caught our sauger on.
"Whatcha catch 'em on?" anglers would say when they saw our catch at the Botel.
"Goodyear Minnows, of course," we'd reply. You should've seen the looks.
Bill Bellis even started selling them in the Botel. He had them up on the wall stuck in a piece of Styrofoam. A lot of folks bought 'em, simply because they were cheaper than some of the other sauger lures sold at the time.
Ah, it's a good story, and in fact, the Goodyear Minnow was a good lure.
They were sure well-balanced, no doubt. And since some of those tire weights had been on my truck, it is a fish tale that has given me good mileage — in more ways than one!
See you next time, and 'til then, catch one for me.
For more words of wit and wisdom from one of our sport's greatest legends, check out www.billdanceoutdoors.com.