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Thinking Like a Bass
By Paul Crawford

Itís sometime after WW III, the world and mankind as we know it has come to an end. Youíre left alone in a biological waste land. When man blew up the world, he did it with biological weapons which wiped out all life as we knew it but left the landscape in tact. A very few new forms of life have emerged in the old haunts, and you are one of them. You are a Brown Themun. Themuns have three stages of life. They start life as a Weeun, grow into an Usun, and if they live long enough, can grow into a Bigun. Themuns are a very cannibalistic species since very few other things exist to feed on. Biguns mate once a year and have millions of Weeuns. The Usuns and Biguns feed on the Weeuns. The Weeuns are the only life stage that can eat the few types of poisonous plants left on the planet.

Weeuns are very fast, but not very quick. They take a while to get up speed, but once there can outrun almost anything. The only trouble is they canít keep it up for ever. All that speed burns up a lot of energy and after a long run, they have to rest and feed to be able to speed along again.

Usuns are very quick for a short distance, but canít sustain much speed over the long haul. They can catch Weeuns if they are close enough, but canít keep up if a Weeun gets up a full head of steam. It takes a lot of energy to be an Usun, and Usun have to eat several Weeuns every day to stay quick and healthy.

Biguns are down right slow compared to either Weeuns or Usuns. But once an Usun grows into a Bigun, it evolves a big net coming out of itís nose. The net canít be thrown but a few feet, but since all a Bigun has to do is sneeze to throw it, it travels lighting quick for those couple of feet. Pity the Weeun or Usun thatís close enough when a Bigun sneezes. Biguns are the masters of energy management. They only have to eat one Usun each week to stay healthy. If they canít find an Usun, then a few Weeuns will do, if they can catch them.

There are some other creatures in this world, but Themuns try to stay away from all of them.

There are Divers around. A Diver is giant creature that can defy gravity and is absolutely silent. They are extremely fast but canít maneuver very well at speed. You always keep an eye to the sky when a Diver might be around. Divers feed mostly on Usuns. Weeuns seem too small to fool with and they donít show too much interest in Biguns. But even if youíre a Bigun, you worry about Divers because they could injure or even kill you if they donít eat you.

There are also a few Lurkers about. Lurkers are big, slow, and fairly dumb. They will eat almost anything. Themuns can outrun a Lurker and Lurkers are so big, they have trouble making their way into the forest or any of the old ruins still around. But if a Themun lets down its guard or is injured, a Lurker will always be there to take advantage of the situations.

Maybe the most dangerous thing around for Usuns and Biguns are the Foolers. Foolers look just like Weeuns and can only be distinguished from a Weeun by the fact they always move with a wobbling gait, kind of like they are hurt. Foolers are poisonous and can make you very ill or even kill you. If youíre unfortunate enough to tangle with a Fooler and survive it, you may still end up easy prey for a Lurker. Youíll never live long enough to be a Bigun unless you learn to recognize a Fooler when you see it. Foolers tend to like wide open spaces but lately they have been seen along the local paths and a few were even found deep in the heart of the forest.

The world looks pretty much just like it did before the war except itís now brown and gray with old dead trees and sterile ground. A patches of ugly brown weeds grow here and there as high as your head, but only Weeuns can eat the stuff. The weeds seem to prefer the shade, growing near the old trees and buildings. All of the man made things are still present, only in need of repair. Fences, houses, towns, and highways are just as they were left before the war. A constant low level fog covers the earth limiting your vision to only a hundred yards or so, sometimes much less. The only ones not effected by the fog are the Divers. They have excellent vision anyway and can hover above the fog, peering down to ground in all directions.

Given this post war world, being a reasonable, prudent, (and terrified ) Themun, how would you go about staying alive? How would you move from place to place? How would you catch your food? Where would you live? Where would you rest? What would make your fearful life a little easier? How would you adapt to different conditions? There are no right or wrong answers, (unless you get eaten), just guesses and reasons in this world of your imagination.

Just to get oriented, letís imagine the landscape. A drive through the country should do well. Along the road we see clumps of trees, ditches, hills, fences, bridges, houses, side roads, and lots of wide open spaces and pasture land. We see the occasional tractor or isolated clump of trees in the middle of the pastures. There are dense areas of old forests grown up between open areas, some of which may run for miles. Some areas have steep mountains with sheer cliffs, others only small rolling hills. How you choose to live will have a lot to do with the surrounding terrain, and the type and amount of available cover.

You were hatched into this world as a rather unremarkable Brown Weeun. This was a very good thing since remarkable Weeuns tend to never make it to be an Usun. You once heard a story that there use to be Green and Pink Themuns, but for some reason you could never explain, none of them seem to be around anymore. You made it a point to not think too much about it since that might be the deadly sin of Curiosity, and you all remember when old Curious Charley went exploring and never came back.

Right after you hatched, you could see not all Weeuns were exactly alike. There seemed to be to groups, those that like to socialize and a few Loners. That didnít last too long since the Loners like to go off by themselves, away from the herd. Thatís another thing you avoid thinking about, why after just a couple of days, you just never seem to see a Loner anymore.

The first real trauma in your life was the first Usun you ran into. You had peacefully been living at home in the grass stand when this, (to you), HUGE Usun came charging through. You thought that day was going to be your last when the Usun charged the herd as it grazed. You learned a valuable lesson as the herd split in all directions: If you stick together, then youíre just part of a mouthful, if you split up, then only one of you is in real trouble. On the fourth charge, when you were picked as the unfortunate one, you learned a second lesson, you can survive a charge if you have something to duck behind real quick.

As you grew in size and strength, you started exploring the world. You found you could wander into open spaces and as long as the herd stuck together, you were pretty safe. After all, someone in the herd was looking in all directions and on clear days, you could see an Usun approach long before it had any real chance to catch you. You had learned about the dark days the hard way. On one dark day, when the fog was heavy, your herd was wandering the open spaces when it came upon a hungry Usun. As the herd turned around, it found another Usun blocking the escape. In all directions, Usuns charged out of the fog. In every direction you ran, it seemed like an Usun was waiting for you. Those that survived that day became more cautious of what day was good one to explore.

Fortunately, you watched from the safety of the grass that day when Brave Bob led a part of the herd out far into the open. Bob had said it was too dangerous to stick close to the grass that might hide another Usun, so he was heading for open spaces between meals. That was the day you discovered you were no longer small enough to escape the notice of Divers. Just half of the exhausted survivors made it back. You never strayed too far from either the herd or some type of cover since that day.

You finally did learn to move from place to place to find new grazing grass. You learned to stay close to cover, but not to close. That way you could see an Usun charging and had some time to react. Youíd picked up the good habit of positioning yourself in the middle of the herd and staying there. When the herd broke, you were just one streak in a thousand, at least while there still was a thousand. Oh, some still fell on just about every trip to either an Usun or a Diver, but the older and bigger you got, the fewer seemed to fall. This was very good news since very few seemed left. The real problem was it seemed like every day, the grass was less and less filling.

Then one day, it happened. You had been grazing on some very unsatisfying grass with a few remaining friends when a herd of very tiny Weeuns came in to join you. You had certainly seen other herds, joining and combining herds as you moved from place to place. But these were about the smallest Weeuns you had every seen. Something clicked. You noticed Frank and Sylvia look up and suddenly two Weeuns disappeared. You just couldnít stand the urge and snapped down on the top of Weeun before it had time to react. Much to your surprise this previously repugnant action resulted in a strange satisfying flavor. From that moment on, you were no longer counted among the Weeuns, you had become a full fledged Usun.

The first few days of being an Usun were very good ones indeed. All you had to do was lay around in the grass waiting for a Weeun to graze too close. A quick dart and lunch was over. You grew quickly with little effort. But as you grew, so did your appetite and the available supply of Weeuns on this particular grass stand was dwindling fast. All too soon it was time move on and enter the brave new and dangerous world of being an Usun.

A new Usun could starve to death unless heís a fast learner. Cruising from grass stand to grass stand, most approaches are noticed and the Weeuns seem to disappear before your very eyes. You never really got a chance to get full, merely enough to hold you over until the next meal. Constantly moving and searching, there appears to be very few Weeuns and those you do find are tiny. Your life revolves around finding the next meal and rest is seldom long before hunger forces you to resume the hunt.

During a quick cruise between grass stands, you become familiar with another truth of Usun life, there are a lot more Divers around than you thought. Only with a mad dash behind an old fence post keeps you from being lunch for a Diver. You quickly learn to keep an eye on the sky, but even then it seems like you can never spot a Diver before itís already charging you. You abandon the open spaces and make a new habit of staying close to protective cover most all of the time. You learn that rest can only safely be done when you move into the forest or hide in a drainage pipe along the old highway. You still remember the lesson that there is strength in numbers and often join up with other young Usuns for mutual protection as you hunt for food.

During a brief rest stop in dense portion of the forest that you learned Divers arenít the only thing to be wary of. It was the dear departed Fred that was resting only a couple of feet from you that provided the example. Fred moved over by a dark shady spot, well protected in all directions. As he wearily approached, a huge black shape fast as lightening snapped out of the darkness, followed by the emergence of the biggest Themun you had ever seen. As Fred disappeared into the mouth of the monster, you beat a quick retreat, not likely to forget your first encounter with a Bigun. From that day forward, you approach the dark corners with a wary eye and always felt relief when you found it unoccupied.

Your confusion grew along with the Weeuns. Youíd see a Weeun in the distance but it would disappear as youíd approach even if there was little cover to hide behind. It was only after countless fruitless attempts, that you happen to figure out the disappearing act. You were calmly munching on a Weeun while surveying the grass for the next morsel when you caught sight of one directly in front of you. Before you could move, Clara started straight to the spot. Before you eyes, the Weeun froze in place and faded into the background. You still could see the Weeun frozen in place, but Clara stopped short, confused and frantically searching for the invisible Weeun. As you stood there, mesmerized by the scene, Clara turned away and the Weeun dashed away, straight towards you. The Weeun had a very satisfying taste as you snatched on itís way by. It was at that moment you realized that you became just as invisible as the late Weeun if you simply held perfectly still. It took several more days of failed tries before you came to the conclusion that you also had to have the proper back drop to fade into. For some reason, brown weeds or wood seemed the best.

Another use of this new skill became apparent only a few days later. You were dining with a few friends out at that new grass stand Herman found out in the open space. As you were laying low, frozen in place waiting for the next Weeun to emerge, an ominous shadow passed overhead. There was no place to run in time as the Diver charged out of the sky. Danny made a desperate dash towards the grass as you were deciding which way to run when another giant shadow suddenly covered you up. It was another Diver charging fast from behind you only a couple of feet overhead. You were thinking back over the wonderful life you had led, preparing for the talons in your back, when the Diver blew right by, snatched Danny, and was gone as quickly as he had appeared. Shaken but otherwise OK, it dawns on you that by staying frozen, you were as invisible to the Diver as a motionless Weeun was to you. File this one away under Prime Survival Skills.

Feeding became easier as your first year as an Usun drew to a close. Although the remaining Weeuns were much fewer, they were larger and one or two made a good meal. You learned you could hide better by staying in the shadows until the Weeuns came too near to escape your charge. Instead of constantly roaming, you started picking your feeding time. The darker hours were the best as the shadows lengthened hiding you better. Instead of going to the grass stands all of the time, you found it easier and almost as fruitful to lay in the shadows beside the forest or along the old highway. From here, if a herd of Weeuns came by on their way to the next grass stand, you could simply dash out, grab a bite, and return to your haunts with very little effort.

On dark days with a thick fog, you learned the art of hunting by stealth. Instead of moving along quickly between shadows, you inched along every so slowly. It was almost as good as freezing in place and you could approach a feeding Weeun without being seen until it was too late. As you grew, your eye sight became keener and more trained. Now you could spot a motionless Weeun if you looked carefully enough. You spent the dark days cruising from spot to spot, feeding briskly while the darkness lasted, resting in the shade on the days too bright to hunt.

As you roamed in your search for food, you found there are lots of places to hide. An old tractor in a field is a good place to rest. Dark sides of hills inside cuts and ravines are natural way points in your journeys. Old houses and building may be wonderful places to stop, but they are scary as well. The last Bigun you saw was moving among the old ruins. The deep forest is also now a place you avoid, staying instead to the edges where escape from creatures in the shadows is possible. There are places just too dark or well hidden for you to venture into.

Ditches and old creek channels keep you hid from spying eyes as you move from spot to spot. By keeping to the low terrain, you can leap up to into a passing herd of Weeuns while staying safe from Divers. You find other uses of the low highways as well, because you arenít the only traffic in the lanes. Herds of Weeuns can be found traveling low from time to time and you discover that if you hide in the shade of an old tree, you can leap down on the passing herd and have the advantage of seeing the open spaces as well. Bends or corners are particularly good places to hide since there is less chance of being spotted from a distance. Old trees or big rocks which can sometimes be found in the middle of the ditch are the prime places, but it always seems those places are occupied by bigger, meaner Themuns and you rarely can take advantage of such a spot.

Yet more dangers presented themselves one day when you were traveling with a few friends. You had stopped to rest in a small ledge carved out of the side of an ancient river bed, when a single large Weeun came bumbling down beside the river bed. It seemed almost too easy, with itís drunken lilt and unsteady gait. Betty was closest to the Weeun as it came over the edge, and dashed out for lucky meal. As soon as Betty inhaled the Weeun, she started thrashing about in a terrible rage attempting to disgorge the offending morsel. Panic washed over everyoneís face and Betty sank down weakly in the middle of the old river bed. The Fooler had done itís damage. You watched in horror as a gigantic new shape emerged from the shadows and slowly approached, and then engulfed the helpless Betty. The Lurker quickly finished what the Fooler had started. The older you got, the more cautious you became about what youíd eat.

Only the change of seasons with the change in quantity and size of the available Weeuns made one day different than the rest. Right after the hatch, you spent the days gorging yourself on easy, if unfulfilling prey. As the Weeuns grew and became more substantial, the days were spent in a leisurely hunt, picking off the inattentive Weeun with stealth and surprise from the dark. When the Weeuns thinned to small, sparse groups, hunger set in and you could no longer afford the energy to actively hunt, instead laying in wait for a meal to wander past. All too soon, Weeuns became rare and you retreated to the safety of the dark places to sulk over your empty belly. The first year or two, you came all too close dying of starvation before the new hatch arrived. Weakened by hunger and without the energy to put up much of a fight, you would have been an easy meal for any Bigun that happened by. Only good fortune and good hiding places saved you over the empty season.

As time passed, you learned to become a creature of habit. It was much to your advantage to find yourself a small home range and stay there as long as you could. Time and energy was saved by knowing the best places to hunt or ambush. Well know escape routes along with hard learned areas of danger made survival easier if not sure. With time to spend to cautiously explore, dark places holding Biguns or Lurkers could be found and avoided. Home ranges were hard to come by since all of the good ones were occupied by very protective owners. You could only keep your home until a bigger, meaner Themun came along. Of course, when you found yourself displaced or the food ran out, you were never above intimidating a smaller Usun out of way to take over his home range. In fact, you always kept a mental list of near by ranges in case you needed to take over a weak one or ever had the opportunity to move into better haunts.

It was during the desperate empty season on your third year that you had your closest call. You were weak enough to give up trying to feed for the most part and simply remained in place as isolated Weeuns wandered past just out of your charging range. You had even allowed a couple of smaller Usuns to intrude on your home since it wasnít worth the energy to chase them away. It was a rather dark day when you saw the Weeun stumble out of the deep brush. You thought it odd that a Weeun would come from that direction but were in no condition to be too choosy where the next meal came from. Just as the Weeun was coming in range, one of the smaller intrudes charged hard and snapped the Weeun up. You were infuriated and rushed towards the Usun when it suddenly collapsed in itís tracks. You stopped short and retreated to safety to watch the motionless intruder just as a Diver swooped down and disposed of the unfortunate Usun. The Fooler had done itís damage all to quickly and easily. You made yourself a new law to live by that has saved you many times since, "Anything that looks too easy is probably dangerous and should be avoided."

It was just before your fourth empty season that your life underwent yet another major change. You didnít seem to ever get full of Weeuns that year and became even more protective of your range. It was with great irritation that you watched the small Usuns chase and panic the few remaining Weeuns that might wander by. The young Usuns hid easier and charged quicker, leaving you little to feed on from your ambush site. There was a point when you would stand no more. A rather large Weeun was approaching when an Usun so small as to have no chance jumped out and startled the Weeun. As the Weeun escaped past just out of range, in a blind rage, you charged the pursuing Usun intent on stopping this once and for all. You snatched the Usun before it could react and gobbled it down out of spite. Strangely enough it was a very satisfying feeling as you retreated to you hiding hole with a full belly. You had just taken your first steps into being a true Bigun.

Being a Bigun meant that all of the rules changed yet again now that Usuns were on the diet. During the next year or two while waiting for your net to develop, you fed willingly on either Usuns or Weeuns as the opportunity presented itself. In many ways, life became much easier as you moved up the food chain.

You began to seek out progressively larger Usuns to feed on. The youngest of the Usuns were still the best and the easiest to catch, but slightly older Usuns were more filling allowing you to comfortably go days between feedings. You started ignoring the small Weeuns as not worth the effort and preferred the larger, and at times much more available Usuns. Particularly during the empty season when the small Usuns were weak, slow, and the small ones searching for food, feeding was easy for you and you grew even bigger quickly. The larger you became, the more options you had on the size of your prey. Foolers became less of a danger to you since you not only fed less often, but normally fed on bigger prey. If a Weeun looked strange in any way, having the slightest wobble or coming from an unexpected direction, it was too easy to simply ignore it and wait for a safer meal.

You had different needs now for your home range. The small dark places you use to hunt are now too small for you to comfortably lay in. Places that use to hide your smaller body are now too light for you to escape notice. You now must seek out those places that are pitch black with room to maneuver. An area with only one such place is too obvious, your new home must have at least a few such places to choose from. You still canít be too far from the open areas with the grass stands since that is where your food will be. But the best homes also have deep haunts to hide in safely away from any danger between meals. Fortunately, it was much easier to acquire and keep an excellent home range. Usuns are easily chased away or eaten. Even other Biguns are no longer a mortal danger, merely something to be avoided.

You managed your home range differently than when you were a small Usun. While young, you jealously protected your range from all intruders. Now, many of those same intruders are your food source. Youíll willingly allow small Usuns to move in your range just for the ready food supply. During the good days, youíll even allow other Biguns into your area rather than disrupt everything with a fight. You can always defend your range when tougher times come and the need arises.

Your size now makes hunting during the day a mostly futile sport. Itís at night when the long shadows hide your bulk that hunting is successful. Tired Usuns that are bedded down for the night may be easily approached. With the practice youíve had over the years, once an Usun is in your sights, you rarely miss. Night is something you share only with the few Lurkers that are about and they may be easily avoided or out run. Night is no longer something to fear, but your friend and companion.

Yes, being close to the top of the food chain is good. Life is hard and there were lots of lessons to be learned. But a Bigun is a quick study, and youíve done well. There are yet more new things to look forward to, your net is growing, making it easier to catch prey. There is this new urge youíve been feeling towards the end of the empty season, and youíre getting an itch to roam and find other Biguns. The future is very bright indeed.

Epilog

I hope you enjoyed our little story. A few words to help you apply the principles. Of course our mythical Themuns represent our bass and forage at various stages. Our Divers and Lurkers the various predators they have in their lives, and our Foolers nothing more than the number one predator, our baits.

Although this is a very simplified model, it does capture many of the basics of bass behavior. Itís not meant to be taken literally, but as a guideline of predicting how bass react to their surroundings and changing conditions. I hope you will be able to think back to our model when you run up against new conditions or just having one of those days where youíre shooting blanks. If you can explain to yourself why the fish are reacting like they are, you might find a key to getting bit in the explanation. Fish, like all living creatures, learn and adapt through experience. If you can now reason out the types of experience your fish have had, then the exercise is a success. It sure seems easier to think in terms of a general, if over simplified model than to try to memorize countless patterns or reactions to specific conditions. These types of mental models have served me well in the past, and I hope will serve you well in the future.

Until next time, Best of Luck and Good Fishing.

Paul Crawford

 
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