"Aw damn, it is another drum," said the nattily dressed bass tournament angler, his vest embossed with a myriad of patches from tackle manufacturers.
This was the fifth drum this disgruntled angler had hauled over the gunnels of his $30,000, candy-colored, metal-flaked bass boat in about two hours.
If an onlooker squinted his eyes as he watched, he would swear he was looking at a NASCAR driver rather than a fisherman. But that is the look of tournament fishermen nowadays.
Moreover, some boats are emblazoned with logos of sponsors such as VISA and CITGO, replicating the patina of a racecar.
Bass-tournament anglers are far too serious and have too much money on the line to appreciate catching any other creature than a largemouth bass. Even a smallmouth bass and Kentucky bass are at times considered inferior species. Therefore, these anglers don't want their concentration diverted by a lowly drum.
In a tournament fisherman's vision of Dante's hell, the drum occupies trash status along with the bullhead, buffalo, gar and carp. Only the bowfin, American eel and burbot are held in lesser esteem.
The drum isn't the bane of just tournament fishermen. Anglers in sole pursuit of walleye, crappie, catfish, striped bass and white bass utter phrases of disdain whenever they catch a drum.
It's also unlikelyone angler in 5,000 goes fishing just to catch just drum.
Pok-Chi Lau of Lawrence, however, is one of those unique anglers who possesses an appreciation of the freshwater drum, and he doesn't become disgruntled when he unwittingly catches a bass, or catfish, which he a lot of.
By catching those other species, Lau reaffirms his admiration for the drum. From Lau's perspective, drum fight harder and grow larger than the largemouth bass. It is possible to tangle with a 15-pounder that will wage a 10-minute donnybrook before it is subdued.
To catch them, Lau prefers to bounce either a 1/8-ounce or 1/4-ounce chenille-and-marabou jig slowly on the bottom. On a jig, Lau catches them in shallow water along gravel and rocky shorelines or at offshore humps or drop-offs as deep as 25 feet.
Chartreuse is Lau's favorite color, and he works his jig on a spinning outfit spooled with eight-pound line.
Disgruntled bass fishermen catch scores of them by working a rocky bank with a medium-action spinning outfit that sports a pumpkinseed-colored Dion's Classic by Gambler, which is affixed to a 1/8-ounce jighead and tied to 10-pound test monofilament.
Overy the years, slowly retrieved crankbaits, such as a Norman Baby N or Little N that are wielded on a casting outfit and 10- or 12-pound line, have lured drums aplenty into bass anglers' boats.
What's more, in the hands of a chef such as Paul Prudhomme, the drum can be blackened Cajun-style.
Lau is also one of the finest chefs in these parts, and he can render a drum into scores of delectable Chinese dishes.
According to Prudhomme and Lau, the smaller ones, weighing about a pound or two, are best for the table. Big drum, however, are the ones that give anglers some of the best battles that can be had in freshwater.