"Yes sir, Taylor Wilson! That right there is what a BDM can do!" said my hunting and fishing buddy, Rad Ellington of Brownsville, Tenn.
Rad, a cousin and close friend, has known me all his life, yet he still sometimes calls me by my full name when he gets excited. And with him, excitement happens a lot when he is hunting or fishing. (It also happens when he is awake, asleep or breathing, for that matter.)
He seldom wears a shirt (how do you know it's really cold? When Rad has on two T-shirts, of course), and my publisher once said, "Will you ever take a photo of Rad with a fish, deer or turkey where he has a shirt on?"
So now, for every "trophy" photo we take, Rad takes off his shirt and says, "Let's take one for your publisher." Even if it's in December. "And tell him this ain't hair on my chest and back, either; it's mosquitoes!"
But back to the BDMs, which stands for Big Darned Minnows (note "darned" is primarily substituted for another word in more polite circles).
On nearly every bass trip I have ever taken with Rad, he has been sure not to leave home without a good supply of BDMs. He and his father-in-law grow them in small ponds. They toss out breadcrumbs to lure the bait to the surface, then seine them up prior to a fishing trip.
It's not that Rad can't fish artificial baits. He is adept at fishing those, too. But when he does, he also is likely to have a BDM and a float cast somewhere off to the side.
Most often, on a slow day, if anything is going to work, it is going to be BDMs. And the bigger the live bait, the better, especially for big bass. Rad has likewise proven this to me over the years.
I have pointed out, and perhaps protested somewhat, to him that it is very difficult for big-named anglers or lure companies to move product via praising the benefits of BDMs. And, of course, live bait is outlawed in the bass-tournament world, thus the underlying reason so many "serious" fishermen shun shiners.
This doesn't matter to Rad, who says if he is going fishing he is going to be corporately sponsored by BDM even if he has to grow them himself.
Indeed, I am both witness and convert to the power of BDMs.
Still, there have been days that we've fished and I have been the bass-fishing snob simply refusing to fish anything but artificial baits.
And the only times I can say that artificials beat BDMs are on those days where everything was biting anyway. On such occasions, it was simply more time efficient to use artificial bait because you do not have to re-bait as often after strikes like you do with live bait.
"I am telling ya! I am telling ya! I am telling ya, Taylor Wilson!," Rad says. "If you want to increase your odds of catching big bass, you had better get you some BIG DARN MINNOWS!"
I wish I had a minnow for every time he told me that.
His sales pitch on the allure of live bait for big bass is echoed by biologist Keith Jones in the book, "Knowing Bass."
As case in point, Jones writes in his book:
But when the chips are down and the bass (particularly the older, larger, more experienced ones) are tight-lipped and closed-mouthed, when you really need to entice a strike, I'd lay my money on live bait any day. I can't count the number of times in the lab where I have watched hungry bass ignore artificials but go absolutely nuts over live prey. Something in artificials is different. Something (some stimulant) is missing (from artificials).
As for Rad, he has always agreed with the above and most of the time what's missing on a sour fishing trip is simply three letters: B-D-M.
"You just go ahead and tell all them bass pros and all them other big-shot guides you fish with that there is just no way to beat a BDM! Tell 'em ol' Rad said so!" he will sometimes crow, rubbing it in while hauling aboard another hawg.
I can only laugh at him and then ask if I can borrow a BDM, or two.
Indeed, over my years as an outdoor writer, I have been fortunate to share the boat with some big-name folks who got their big names by catching big fish, and maybe a few of them caught fish on BDMs. But don't look for them to brag about it. (They know who pays the bills via corporate sponsorship and it ain't the man driving the BDM truck, by the way.)
Still, when all is said and done and the time comes to simply have fun (and that is whenever possible), I would much rather be fishing with someone who calls me by my full name and knows to the letter how to catch big fish. And those letters are B-D-M, in case you've forgotten.
On what note of technique, anglers fishing BDMs might consider using live-bait circle hooks. These hooks are designed to work to the corner of a fish's mouth as it takes the bait. (It is often said, these hooks allow the fish to hook themselves, by the way.)
The result is fewer swallowed hooks when live-bait fishing something that assures the survival of more bass caught and released when using this method.
Taylor Wilson is a free-lance writer and editor for Bill Dance Publishing in Brownsville, Tenn. He can be reached at email@example.com.