October 31, 2008
(MCT) FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Looking for a clue as to how attached Victor Cole is to his favorite fishing spot, the Everglades?
"I want the Everglades to be my final resting place," said Cole, 41, a guide from Hollywood, Fla. "When I pass away, I want a friend in a bass boat to run down one of these canals and scatter my ashes here.
"This place is so special to me, that would be a fitting sendoff."
Indeed, the Florida Everglades is Cole's world.
He became fascinated with the place when he was just 10, and his father would drop him off at one of the canals for a day of fishing.
He just had a 10-foot johnboat and no motor at the time. But he would spend the day rowing to new adventure, casting to grassy flats, catching bass and taking in the sights.
"All the alligators, the fish, the birds, the tranquility - it really struck me," Cole said as he headed down a canal in the Sawgrass Recreation Area just west of Fort Lauderdale. "Even at that age, I was just fascinated by the place."
Some 30 years later, not much has changed.
Oh, Cole runs a high-powered bass boat with a big motor on it now. And he gets paid to take others fishing in the place he loves.
But just like when he was a youngster, he remains intrigued with this special place nicknamed "the River of Grass."
"For a bass fisherman, this is a paradise," he said. "The Everglades is just so vast. There's water and grass for miles.
"And this place is loaded with bass. On a good day, it's nothing to catch 50 to 75 fish."
Cole was working toward that goal on a recent weekday. Moments after launching his boat, he was on a flat, surrounded by "salad" everywhere he turned.
Lilly pads, saw grass, cattails, Kissimmee grass, pencil grass, coontail moss, arrowheads - you name it, it was within casting distance. So were big alligators who sunned themselves on the shore and watched the approaching boat before slipping into the shallow water.
"We call our trolling motors 'salad slicers,' " Cole said with a laugh, "You need a good trolling motor to get through this stuff."
"It can get pretty thick. But that's good. That's what the bass want."
Cole launched a cast and began working his plastic bait through the clear water. As it neared a clump of weeds, the surface swirled and Cole felt the solid tug of a Florida bass.
Moments later, he had the 3-pound largemouth in the boat and was reveling in another sun-soaked day in the Everglades.
"People from places like Pennsylvania will call me on my cell phone at this time of the year and tell me how miserable the weather is there," Cole said. "And I'll tell them, 'It's 75 degrees here, I'm getting sunburned and I'm catching bass.'
"I just can't resist."
Cole was enjoying one of those 75-degree days recently.
Though a cold front slowed the action, the bass were still biting. And Cole was still catching them.
As a member of the pro staff for Gambler Lures, he has no shortage of plastic baits to cast to the fish. He caught fish on everything from a Cane Toad topwater bait to an Ace, a Senko-type bait, to a Ribbon Tail plastic worm. By the time has was done, he had caught and released some 20 bass in a half day of fishing.
No, there were none of the monstrous bass that have given Florida fame. But there was plenty of action - action that seldom runs out.
"I've been guiding for four years and I've never had a trip when we didn't catch bass," he said. "We'll catch a lot of 2- and 3-pound fish. But there are bigger ones in here."
Cole landed a 10-pound, 4-ounce bass two years ago in the Everglades. And he remembers one tournament when he caught 28 pounds, 3 ounces of bass, including one that weighed 8 pounds, 15 ounces, in a day of fishing.
But bass aren't the only creatures that grow big in the Everglades.
"One time I threw a Zara Spook to a clump of grass and it just disappeared in this big swirl," Cole said. "I thought at first that I had a huge bass. Then I realized a big alligator had grabbed it.
"Luckily, it came off. When I got that bait back, it was just crushed."
That's life in the Everglades. It's a vast, grass-filled, mysterious world filled with bass.
And for Cole, filled with fascination.
"There's no other place in the world like the Everglades," he said. "I've been fishing it for most of my life, but I never get tired of coming here. It's just a special place."
© 2008, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.