fried bass

WaterLine photo by Chef Tim Spain

I did a lot of bass fishing while growing up in Zolfo Springs. We had a couple ponds that we could fish, but we weren’t allowed to keep the bass because they stocked ponds and we wanted them to stay that way. If we wanted to catch some bass to eat, Dad would take us to the river or Charlie Creek. When he had the time, he’d haul us all the way over to Sebring in his old green 1974 F-100 dragging a jon boat.

Back then and still to this day, my favorite bass bait other than shiners is a purple firetail Culprit worm with a purple bullet weight in front of that weedless hook. When we were kids, my brother and I wore out a few Zebco 202s reeling those worms around looking for a bite.

When we got a bit older, we got the bright idea that we had to have baitcasters because that was what we saw ol’ Bill Dance using while fishing on TV. We kept after Dad about those baitcasters.

I guess he’d heard enough, because one day he said, “Alright, here are two baitcasters that have plugs on them with the hooks cut off. Go out in the yard and learn to cast them. I’ll bet it won’t be long before you two knuckleheads will be asking for those 202s back.”

He was right, I still don’t own one. I’m the king of the bird’s nest. My brother Tom can throw a baitcaster pretty well, but I gave up trying a long time ago.

When I was 7 years old, my brother and I were fishing one of our ponds. Tommy had a Snoopy pole that actually had Snoopy on it. His little pole bent over and line was ripping out of that little reel. I jumped in front of him and grabbed the line to help pull in whatever was on the other end. Tommy started hitting me in the back up the head with the Snoopy pole and yelling, “Stop trying to steal my fish!”

By then we had the fish almost to shore. He started walking backwards and pulled about a 10-pound bass up onto the bank. We were so excited that even though Grandpa had told us not to take any fish, we did anyway because we wanted to show it to Dad. We took the bass in the house and put it in the bathtub and filled it up.

Mom came back from the neighbors and started yelling at us when we she found that bass swimming in her bathtub. We laughed as she grabbed the bass and headed back to the pond to release it. However, Tom and I didn’t know what chlorine was, and it killed the fish.

Mom then said, “Well, it’s dead and I guess we’re going to have to eat it. Before we do, let’s take it to Gran and Pa’s store in Ona and show it to them.” Gran and Pa were my maternal great-grandparents .

Tom and I have always kept a Snoopy pole ever since that day — they’ve just been upgraded. The one I have has an older Stradic Ci4+ on it. He says I’m cheating, but I say we didn’t establish any rules.

At our house, Dad always fried the fish and always had some hushpuppies to go with it. He’d give us some to hush us up while we were waiting for the fish to get done frying. They work just as well on kids as they do on dogs.

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

Pan-fried Largemouth Bass

4 bass fillets (about 8 oz each)

1 cup all-purpose flour, divided

3 eggs

1 tbsp Everglades seasoning

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup seasoned flour (pre-mixed or make your own)

1/4 cup corn meal

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 quart frying oil

In a large cast iron skillet, carefully heat your oil to 375 degrees. While it’s heating, set up your flouring station. Place 1/2 cup of flour in a shallow dish. Mix the seasoned flour, Everglades, salt, baking powder and cornmeal together. Crack the eggs into a shallow bowl and beat them well. Remember to watch the oil and don’t overheat it. Pat the fillets dry. One at a time, dredge the fillets in plain flour, then coat with the egg wash, then dredge in the seasoned flour and cornmeal mix. Carefully place them in your hot oil and cook on both sides for 1.5 minutes.

— Recipe by Chef Tim Spain

Hushpuppies

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 lightly beaten egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

Combine all the dry ingredients, then combine all the wet ingredients. Finally, combine the wet with the dry. Use a serving spoon to portion your hushpuppies and fry them at 375° until they are floating in the hot oil.

— Recipe by Chef Tim Spain

Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.

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