FIGHTING QUALITIES OF BLACK BASS - 1907
Though Dr. James A. Henshall published his definitive Book of the Black Bass in 1881, controversy concerning the game qualities of these species, both largemouth and smallmouth, extended well into this century. One pleasant result was that such controversy made for exciting magazine copy. Entire articles were devoted to whether treble-hooked plugs-practically invented for bass fishing-were sporting lures, And whether a trout fisherman would demean himself and his fly tackle by trying to take such unruly game.

By 1912 the black bass was happily accepted everywhere, including transplants to Europe. But a new controversy had flickered up: which of the two species was the better game fish. W. P. Corbett suggested in the pages of Field and Stream that the smallmouth, pound for pound, was superior to the largemouth as a game fish. Will H. Dilg, a popular angling writer of the time and future founder with Zane Grey of the Izaak Walton League, replied that such testimony was nonsense, and that the fighting qualities of any bass depended entirely on the conditions and temperature of the water he came from and what the fish had been eating. Largemouth and smallmouth bass taken from the same lake, he argued, were identical in taste and in behavior at the end of a line. Mr. C. replied that he had indeed taken largemouth and smallmouth bass from the same waters, and the smallmouth was still unquestionablysuperior. But Mr. Corbett's reply was a. mite more sarcastic than his opening article, and at one point he called the big pot-bellied Florida bass "flabby monsters" and compared them to carp, and, in another context, he casually mentioned taking many smallmouths with fly tackle from the Delaware.

Suddenly, like a champion of insulted virtue, Zane Grey appeared on the stage. He was there to support Dilg's thesis and friendship; he was also aggravated by any comparison between bass and carp--not because he considered the bass lordly and the carp base, but because he knew that Mr. Corbett thought so. (Actually, ZG considered the carp as worthy an opponent as the bass but in a different class.) Mostly, however, Zane Grey was annoyed to find someone who pretended to know more about the Delaware than did ZG himself. Here is the last half of his reply.
 
FIGHTING QUALITIES OF BLACK BASS - 1907
If I know any fishing water at all it is the Delaware River. I live on it. I own nearly a thousand acres of land along it. I have fished it for ten years. I know every rapid, every eddy, almost, I might say, every stone from Callicoon to Port Jervis. This fifty-mile stretch of fast water I consider the very finest bass ground that I have fished. The mountains are heavily wooded and bold and rugged; the river is winding and picturesque and a succession of white rapids and foam-flecked eddies. The bass that grow from four to six and one-half pounds in this swift water are magnificent game fish. And that is why I am always at home in late summer when these big fish bite.
Mr. C. remarked that "thousands of bass are taken every summer with the fly on the Delaware." If it was meant seriously, I think it should have been made clear. I fancy that -in his enthusiasm Mr. C. just "talked." He was not clear, deliberate, and absolutely sure of his facts.
There are black bass in the Delaware from its source down to Trenton. And at certain times during the season a few fish might rise to a fly somewhere above Milford, and very probably below in the quieter waters. The West Branch and the East Branch, Joining at Hancock, are both shallow streams. Both branches furnish good fly-fishing for those who are content to catch little bass. Neither stream can be compared to the Lackawaxen River, which empties into the Delaware in front of my cottage. But I have never had arise from a big bass in the Lackawaxen or the Delaware.

The Delaware proper only comes into existence at Hancock, and really is not a river until about Long Eddy. Cochecton Falls, five miles below Callicoon, marks the development of the best water. In ten years, during hundreds of trips between Cochecton Falls and Cedar Rapids, perhaps thirty miles of swift water and positively the best of the river, I have never encountered a fly fisherman. At the boarding houses and camps, I have met, in that time, perhaps half a dozen men who had fly rods in their outfits.

The best of these fishermen, Mr. Patterson, a man of wide experience and much skill, told me he caught a good many bass. But he admitted the fish ran small, a two-pounder being the largest. The bass I have caught on a fly with few exceptions ran less than half a pound in weight. A small gold spoon with a fly attached appeared to be more attractive, and bass up to three pounds would take it. But for me, the real bass, the big fellows, never batted an eye or twitched a fin at these artificial lures. Possibly they may have done so for some better fisherman than I am. However, I find it hard to believe. If I saw it I would put it down as the exception that proved the rule.

I see hundreds of canoeists and fishermen come down the Delaware every summer. If they were fly fishermen I would know it. They all stop at the hotel opposite my place. Many of them are kind enough to pay me a little visit. Whatever style of fishermen they were, if they caught a big bass or even made a good catch I would be-likely to find it out. Most of them, amateurs or otherwise, had good fishing. Some were inclined to ridicule sport on the Delaware. To these I usually told a few bass stories and always had the pleasure of seeing them try politely to hide their convictions of what an awful liar I was. Then I paralyzed them by showing a 26-inch mounted bass, and upon occasions a few live bass of six pounds and more; and upon one remarkable occasion I made several well-meaning. but doubtful fishermen speechless and sick. These men had fished around the hotel for days. They were disgusted. They could not catch any bass. Somebody sent them to me. I am sorry to state that they hurt my feelings by asking me if I had bait to sell. That little interview ended in my advising them to learn the rudiments of the sport-to make their own flies and catch their own bait. And they delicately implied that they did not believe there were any more bass in the Delaware than there were brains in my head. So I sarcastically told them to come down to the hotel float on the following evening at sunset. Next morning at daylight my brother and I started up the river. We had rather a good day. At sunset we were on time with the boat at the float. The disgruntled anglers were on hand. In fact, so many people, crowded down on the float that it sank an inch or so under water. I wish all my readers could have heard the plunging of the big bass in my fish box as I lifted the lid. When I bent over to take out a bass I was deluged with water. But this was great! I captured a fine black fellow -about four and a half pounds - and he gaped and spread his great dorsal fin and curved his broad tail, and then savagely shook himself. I pitched him out. Souse! Then, deliberately, one after another, I lifted big bass out of the fish box under the seat of my boat and threw them into the water. Forty bass, not one under three pounds and some over four!

This is history now up along that section of the Delaware, and I am not considered so much of a liar as I used to be.
I have caught a good many Delaware bass running over six pounds, and I want to say that these long, black and bronze fellows, peculiar to the swift water of this river, are the most beautiful and gamy fish that swim. I never get tired of studying them and catching them. It took me years to learn how to catch them. Perhaps someday I shall tell how to do it. But not until I have had the pleasure of seeing Dilg and Davis, and other celebrated fishermen who have not yet honored me with a visit, breaking their arms and hearts trying to induce one of these grand fish to rise to an artificial lure. Be-cause, gentlemen, they will not do it.
Every fishing water has its secrets. A river or a lake is not a dear thing. It has beauty and wisdom and content. And to yield up these mysteries it must be fished with more than hooks and for more than fish. Strange things happen to the inquiring fisherman. Nature meets him halfway on his adventure. He must have eyes that see. One fisherman may have keener eyes than another, but no one fisherman's observation is enough.

I can learn from anyone, yet I do not stop at that, and go on trying to learn for myself. And so amazing experience and singular knowledge have become my possession. Let me close with one more word about the Delaware. In July, when the water gets low and clear, I go up the river. I build a raft and lie flat upon it and drift down. I see the bottom everywhere, except in rough water. I see the rocks, the shelves, the caverns. I see where the big bass live. And I remember. When the time comes for me to fish I know where the big bass are. Nevertheless, it is far from easy to catch them. They are old and wary. I never caught one in deep water. I never had one take hold nearer than 100 feet from the boat. I never use a casting rod or fish with a short line. I never caught one on the day I first saw him. I never caught one on any day he saw me or the boat. I never caught a very large bass, say over five pounds, until after the beginning of the harvest moon. Furthermore, I know that these big bass do not feed often.

One day at a certain place I caught a smallmouth bass, next day a largemouth, then a salt-water striped bass, all out of the same hole. They were about the same size, upward of two pounds; none of the f ish jumped and they all fought well and equally. I could not have told the difference. This was in the Delaware, not a mile from my home. I have seen striped bass with the shad, and once I think I saw a sturgeon. While fishing for bass I have caught big trout. I have had small bass bite my bare toes in the water. I have seen bass engaged in a pitched battle with what appeared to be some kind of order. I have seen a bass tear a water snake to pieces. These last two instances I heard of from other fishermen before I saw them myself .
I repeat, no one fisherman's observation or experience is enough. We must get together or forever be at dagger's point.