As the sun broke through on a calm afternoon, the parking lots at Little Rock’s Two Rivers Park were overflowing.
As hundreds took advantage of the nice weather to walk or ride bikes on the trails, Andre Watson and his 13-year-old son, Spencer, launched their boat for an afternoon of fishing, hoping it would get their minds off the global pandemic.
“We’re just getting out of the house,” Watson said. “This is an excellent time to get out on the water, different from the isolation of being in the house.”
With schools and most every non-essential business closed to help prevent the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus, the Watsons have been getting a bit stir crazy. While dad has worked remotely in property management for the Food and Drug Administration, the Watson boys have been able to get out to fish lakes and ponds around the city.
“My oldest boy and Spencer, they’ve been stoved up in the house,” Watson said. “They’ve been going to the golf course, the fish hatchery, just to get out of the house.
“There’s not a lot of people out here on the water. There’s a bunch of people walking, but it doesn’t look like they’re doing the 6-feet distance. I guess everybody’s got to get some exercise.”
Knowing how the contagion can spread, Watson practiced the elbow bump greeting. He said it’s certainly appropriate to be cautious.
“Social distancing, I think it’s a fair thing right now, especially with what all is going on with the coronavirus,” he said. “My entire family, we’re just bidding our time in the isolation.”
Of course, they’re also wanting to break the monotony of being cooped up, and Watson said fishing “is the best pastime. It is the best pastime. And it’s just a nice day to get out of the house. Let’s see if we can catch some fish.”
While dad said he liked almost anything that pulled on his line, bass, crappie, bream and catfish, Spencer was all about the bass.
“I usually go with my brother, and we usually catch a lot of fish,” he said sitting on a deck filled with rods at the ready.
“We’ll stay out about a couple hours,” Watson said. “This is our first time getting the boat out in the water this year. We want to see how good she runs, and hopefully we don’t have to do any more work on the boat.
“We throw all the bass back, but if we catch some crappie, we’ll probably keep a couple.”
Sorry, gotta go catch ‘em
Kevin Smith of Bryant, Ark., was also at the park’s launch, heading out on his kayak in hopes of hooking up with a bass or two.
“I usually do pretty well along the rocks right up here,” Smith pointed out as he stopped only briefly as he wanted to get going.
Smith works maintenance for the city of Bryant, so he’s kept a regular schedule but was itching to get on the water.
“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s not raining. You just got to keep an arm’s distance from people … I ain’t going to the grocery store anytime soon.”
Elites offer take on time off
With Bassmaster Elite Series events postponed, the pros are finding a variety of ways to spend their time, and fishing is at the forefront.
“With everything that’s going on in the world right now, I figured the safest place to be was on the water,” Skylar Hamilton said for this Bassmaster.com video, Checking in with Elite anglers.
Hamilton, who just posted a 12th-place finish in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, was on his home water of Douglas Lake in east Tennessee.
“I’m probably going to be fishing quite a bit in our time off,” Hamilton said, echoing many Elites. “Hopefully, we can all get through this together, enjoy it the best we can even though it’s a bad situation. Hopefully we can get the tournaments started back here soon. If not, we’ll just deal with it. Until then, just go fishing.”
Bernie Schultz was among the anglers sending in reports, and he spent one day catching schooling bass in Florida, even though he couldn’t get any over 5 pounds to bite.
“It sure beats looking at the news and watching those guys talking about the sky falling,” Schultz said.
Taking some down time to scout Lake Chickamauga and Santee Cooper in hopes those events will be fished, Jesse Tacoronte said adhering to the government mandates to minimize any gatherings is appropriate because, “This coronavirus ain’t no joke.”
He was on his way home, where he’ll fish nearby Kissimmee and Toho and spend time with family.
“We as Elite pros have to travel so much, any extra time is very appreciated with the family,” he said.
While he’d rather be competing, Chris Zaldain said the free time gave him more time to unpack for his and his wife’s move to a new home in north Texas. Before going fishing for the first time since the Classic, Zaldain even posted a photo of him gardening.
“The tournaments got cancelled, everybody’s on lockdown,” he said. “I completely understand, but that gives me more time to unload boxes, get some moving done.”
Hunter Shryock also took an upbeat outlook despite having to self-quarantine.
“With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, I’m going to look at the positives of all this … A lot of us are going fishing,” he said, adding he’s testing some tackle and breaking a long drought of not fishing in Ohio during the spring.
Brandon Card, after showing off a nice bass, offered hopeful thoughts for everyone and wished everyone did their part.
“I’m praying for everybody who is sick and inflicted,” Card said. “I hope everybody gets well soon. We can stop the spread of this crazy disease.”