I have fished Warner’s Lake for over 20 years. During that time I have caught and released hundreds of bass, but it’s the bass I never caught that has the attention of many lake residents and visitors. It’s Smiley the Largemouth Bass.
We had rented a camp for the summer of 2000, one day I noticed a bigger than average Largemouth Bass under my neighbors dock. Upon pointing it out to my neighbor he told me he had been there for a few years and had been feeding him worms. He quickly turned over a rock, grabbed a worm and tossed it into the water. Smiley slowly swam out from under the dock and inhaled the worm and cruised back under the dock….
I became fascinated with Smiley and part of my everyday routine was to feed him. One day I decided to test out Pavlov’s theory. Every time I would toss Smiley a night crawler I would stomp my foot on the ground. After a week or so I would only need to stomp my foot and he would swim out and wait for his night crawler. By the end of the summer Smiley would follow me up and down the shore, stop when I would stop and wait for his night crawler.
In the spring of 2001 I called up my neighbors to see if Smiley was back. Not only was he back but also chose to nest with a huge female near the dock. After the spawn Smiley and his mate left, but returned in early July and picked up right where he left off following me and eating night crawlers. I wanted to see if Smiley would take a night crawler from my hand. I would lie down on the dock and dangle a night crawler in the water. Smiley swam out and stopped about four feet away. I could tell he wanted that crawler but wouldn’t come any closer and after a few minutes he would slowly back away. Day after day I would tempt Smiley with a dangling night crawler from my hand. Each day he would move a little closer until one day he slowly swam up and took the night crawler from my hand. After that day it became automatic. Stomp my foot, dangle a worm and Smiley would swim up and take it. He was becoming popular with the neighbors and guests. He was also getting bigger. I started buying night crawlers wholesale.
The ice came and went and Smiley returned in the summer of 2002 and didn’t forget a thing. Smiley was so comfortable at eating from my hand it only took a few tries of holding a night crawler above the water to get him to leap clear out of the water to get his worm. You can just imagine the look on some of my friend’s faces when after a morning of fishing and catching a few small bass, we would return to the dock and have a three-pound largemouth jump out of the water to get a worm.
The following summer we add swimming thru a hoola hoop to his repertoire. Smiley was becoming quite well known; we had T-shirts made up that read “I fed Smiley at Warner’s Lake” with a picture of a smiling bass. We would give them out to everyone that fed Smiley. We quickly ran out of our initial order of four dozen and had to reorder.
As of this writing the lake is still frozen over, I can only hope that my pal Smiley will return this summer.
Article which appeared in the Altamont Enterprise