Small boats, big bass

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  • Courtesy photos Evan Foil, 13, with one of the bass he caught this year on a crank bait in Lake Coeur d’Alene where he and his brother, Ridley, fish the old-fashioned way, using kayaks and lake maps.

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    Ridley Foil, 11, with the 7-pound Lake Coeur d’Alene largemouth, he kept, ate and had mounted. The brothers usually catch and release all of their fish, they said.

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    RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press The boys at Becker’s Tackle Shop, one of their sponsors.

  • Courtesy photos Evan Foil, 13, with one of the bass he caught this year on a crank bait in Lake Coeur d’Alene where he and his brother, Ridley, fish the old-fashioned way, using kayaks and lake maps.

  • 1

    Ridley Foil, 11, with the 7-pound Lake Coeur d’Alene largemouth, he kept, ate and had mounted. The brothers usually catch and release all of their fish, they said.

  • 2

    RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press The boys at Becker’s Tackle Shop, one of their sponsors.

By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

On a warm day this spring, Ridley Foil was pulled across the water by a fish.

Ridley and the 7-pound bass made a wake.

“He pulled me around in three circles, and pulled all my drag off,” Foil, 11, said.

The Coeur d’Alene bass fisher had a keeper, and a new favorite lure.

He kept the fish. It’s not something the family usually does, but this one was a wall hanger, Tandi, the boy’s mother said.

The lure he used was a bobblehead jig with a crawdad skirt that was the dark, iridescent color of a muscle car.

“I let it sink and retrieved it real slow,” Ridley said.

Ridley and his brother, Evan, 13, are unusually prolific bass fishermen, an endeavor that often finds them on the water, sitting close to the glassine surfaces of North Idaho’s many lakes as they cast crankbaits and jigs from their perch in the hull of a kayak.

Using kayaks allows them to get up close and personal with terrain scoped out using topographic maps and lake charts.

“We’re old school,” said their mom, who got the boys kayaks from yard sales to educate them in the fundamentals of paddling, fishing and catching bass by their wits and knowhow, without the help of modern accoutrements such as fish finders.

That’s how she was brought up in the sport of bass catching.

“We’re a fishing family,” Tandi said. “I learned from my grandpa.”

They also recently enrolled in Kayak Fishing Idaho, a local fishing group that uses small boats to hunt fish. The group also sponsors tournaments for members.

At a Hayden Lake tournament last month Tandi, Ryan and Evan placed in the top three spots — with a collection of bass ranging from 46 to 51 inches — using their outdated approach to finding and catching fish from the seat of the low-riding watercraft.

It was a cool outcome, Tandi said, because it was unexpected.

“We were really outclassed,” she said. “The boys are used to just going out and having fun.”

Much of the competition had fish finders and $4,000 peddle boats.

Since becoming bass anglers several years ago, the boys have collected a stringerful of fishing memories. One of Evans’ most recalled fish tales involves a carp he pulled from Fernan Lake after he cast a jig with a worm against a tree that had fallen into the water. The lunker (it was half as long as Evan, his mother said) pulled the then-12-year-old and his kayak around the lake before he could land it.

“He took the jig as soon as it hit the water,” Evan said. “That one was really hard because he was so heavy.”

Blake Becker at Becker Tackle in Coeur d’Alene sponsors the boys, to a degree, by hooking them up with lures and T-shirts (EyeGuys in Hayden provides sunglasses and Coeur d’Alene Clothing Co. provides the boys with hats and shirts).

“It’s fun to see them out and catching fish,” said Becker, who also helps out high school competition anglers. His shop is devoted to bass anglers, many of whom started with the basics like the Foil brothers.

“They learn the water, they watch the birds, they learn what the water is doing,” Tandi said.

The brothers are home schooled and share a favorite topic.

“History,” Evan said. “It’s fun to learn about things that have happened.”

As fishing goes, it’s fun to tell about what happened too.

The boys are on spring break, which mom times around the pre-spawn.

Tandi and her sons — dad Wayne, is usually at work — pull their kayaks on a trailer and often fish more than one lake each day.

“That’s the great thing about this area,” Tandi said. There are so many lakes, and the family spends its time between Round Lake and the Chain Lakes, but Hayden and Coeur d’Alene are the favorites.

Wednesday at Becker’s Tackle, the question lingered: Will they fish today?

“Are we?” Ridley asked from under the brim of a ball cap.

“That depends,” his mom said.

On how piano lessons go.

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