We were tootling around the farm the other day with the kids on our little utility vehicle when a large grasshopper flew up and popped my wife right in the forehead. Even though it is late in the season and the kids and I could always use the bait, apparently, “Did you get ‘em?” was not the thing to say.
It is about that time. Football. Pumpkins. And with the first heavy frost, the grasshoppers will be gone from our field. I won’t miss the holes chewed in the screen windows. Or the garden that looks like it has been pruned with a hole-punch. But I will miss the bounty of bounding bait.
During the summer if we want great bait, all we have to do is go catch grasshoppers.
“Is that guy frolicking?!”
Maybe that is part of their appeal. Not only is it good exercise, but acquiring grasshoppers for bait promotes personal responsibility, self-reliance, and good-old-fashioned, American rugged individualism. There is a coffee can of grasshoppers out there for each of us. Go find and earn your own grasshopper. This pursuit also appeals to the free-range, organic-types.
Catching grasshoppers is not merely collecting bait… It is gathering tokens or tickets redeemable for fish. And not like skeeball at an arcade where 1,000,000 tickets will get you anything between the Chiclets and the pencil eraser. Thanks to a tough thorax, a well-hooked grasshopper currency often exceeds 1 to 1. This grasshopper equals a 1-pound bass. The big green one is an 8-pound channel catfish. But the yellow finger-stainer is worth at least three green sunfish.
Except for a minor buoyancy issue (hoppers seem to float when I want them to sink; sink when I want them to float), grasshoppers are an outstanding bait offering an irresistible, unduplicable twitch. Grasshoppers are enjoyed by trout, bass, sunfish, catfish, and carp, to name a few. I’ve even caught crappie, a noted piscivore, on green grasshoppers.
Plus, they are one of the only pocket-friendly baits. Especially deep cargo pockets with a button flap. Worms are too easily forgotten, sometimes with disastrous laundry consequences. A hopper will give you the occasional reminder with a kick or jab to the thigh with its tibia spines.
There are 130 species of grasshoppers in Oklahoma. The decisions might seem as overwhelming as the cereal isle. However, it doesn’t take much pouncing around to learn that some grasshoppers just aren’t worth it. For example, the “band winged grasshopper”, those dust-colored hoppers with the Pittsburgh Steelers colored wings, are too spry mid summer. They can fly for miles and even when caught, turn out to be mostly wings. We also have the “obscure bird grasshopper” that enjoys our okra and hibiscus but, as the name implies, they fly out of reach to the tops of oak trees.
My favorite grasshopper is the “differential grasshopper” (formally known in my house as “the yellow ones”). The differential grasshopper isn’t the greatest flyer, but it can be a crafty, worthy adversary. It often resides in hand-slicing long grasses or prickly junipers, sometimes adapting a technique of dropping deeper into the foliage rather than jumping out and risking exposure. When sighted they skootch around the backside of weed stems like a squirrel up a pecan tree. But it is part of this spunk that makes the differential a great bait. These have proven to be just the right length, girth, and density for hook-loading, casting, and overall fish appeal.
These cooler temperatures help make the late season differential sluggish and easier to catch… and the fish can’t wait. In fact, before it gets any colder, I wonder if my wife wants to stun any more…
You ask her.
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Oklahoma. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.