Dusty Baker no slouch when it comes to fishing
Outdoors with Mike Norris - May 16, 2003
My first question to him was do I call him Johnnie B, Dusty, Junior or just plain old Mr. Baker?
"You can call me any of those names," replied Baker. "I really don't care; I just want to go catch some fish!"
So with the preliminaries out of the way, Cubs Manager Dusty Baker, first base coach Gene Clines, CLTV's Great Outdoors show host Steve Sarley and I hopped into my Ranger 620 with rods rigged and ready to go.
Last Thursday was a rare off-day for the Cubs. The dreaded Brewers had just left town after taking two of three from the Cubs, and a big three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals loomed the next day. Dusty wanted to clear his head.
"This is my idea of relaxation," said Baker. "I just love to hunt and fish whenever I can."
Sarley talked of the rivalry between the Cardinals and the Cubs. "The ballpark will be packed tomorrow," he said, and you'll be surprised at all the Cardinal red you see in the stands."
Clines nodded his head in agreement. The former Cub center fielder who retired during the 1979 campaign and coached the Cubs until 1981, and then again in 1988, had seen it before.
As we launched my Ranger 620 into the Calumet River, Baker commented on the size of the boat's hull.
"It's the walleye model," I explained. "The boat is designed for running big water when I'm out chasing walleyes and sauger."
"What's a sauger?" Baker replied.
"It's like a walleye," I explained, "but it has darker markings on the body and is missing the white splotch on the tail that is prevalent in walleyes."
"Can you eat them?" he asked. "I love to eat fresh fish, and I've had walleye before and they were really tasty."
"I just catch them for the sport of it," I said. "Illinois River saugers live in an environment where diesel fuel from barges pollutes the water. Therefore, I just let them go to be caught again another day."
We locked through the O'Brien Locks and motored to Lake Calumet. My Fenwick rods were armed with Norman's Deep Tiny N crankbaits and ISG tube baits, tools I use to catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Our first fishing spot was in the back of a barge chute. A discharge pipe located there was providing clear, oxygenated water that I knew would attract a few bass. On my fifth cast I had a good one on, but the fish smartly sliced its way past a huge rock which cut my line in half.
"These fish are like base stealers," said Clines, who was known to steal a few bases himself during his playing career.
We continued to work two chutes and the rip-rap shorelines of Lake Calumet near the Harbor Side golf course. Under cold front conditions our efforts produced several small largemouth bass, one smallmouth bass and a nice sized white bass. Based on their casting capabilities, I knew Baker and Clines were no slouches when it came to fishing.
"Let's try heading downriver to Lake Michigan to try for a big smallmouth bass," I suggested.
Fifteen minutes into fishing the big lake an ominous fog rolled in.
"Sort of reminds me of Wrigley Field in the spring," I said. "You never know what the weather's going to do. One minute it's 70 degrees and sunny and then the wind shifts and its 45 degrees and foggy."
"Until this year I had never seen the way the weather changes at Wrigley before," said Baker. "As a West Division team the Giants appearances to Wrigley Field always came later in the year when Chicago's weather is more stable. Quite frankly, this is the first year I've been to the park when the ivy wasn't green."
"Too bad Wrigley Field isn't built like Pacific Bell Park," I said. "We could just fish early in the morning and just motor down to the ballpark and drop you off right at the gate."
Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at email@example.com