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Article from the Columbus, GA, Ledger-Enquirer
A Little Piece of the Past
Dwight Lake sounded almost apologetic the first time he watched me load my fishing tackle into one of the aluminum rental boats at Lee County Lake.
He had just taken over as the new manager at Lee County Lake. And as an outdoors writer, he was under the impression I was all about $300 rods and $30,000 Rangers.
He missed the mark just a bit.
Little, out-of-the-way places like Lee County State Lake were a gigantic part of my childhood - and a tributary for the river of affection I feel for the outdoors today. I've spent far more time in 12-foot aluminum boats on small waters than I have holding on for dear life in the 21-foot floating palaces owned by so many fishermen today.
I guess that's why I sometimes choose Lee County even with other options available.
Fighting an aluminum boat against 20-mph winds with nothing but a trolling motor and a paddle can be frustrating sometimes. But every now and then the wind lets up and makes way for a feeling of serenity that simply can't be topped.
It's a feeling that takes me back to the days I spent fishing with my grandfather and father when I was younger. Days when we couldn't afford to buy a boat. Days when, if it hadn't been for small lakes and rental gear, we would have done without.
Of course, that's only part of it. Warm and fuzzy memories wouldn't keep me coming back to Lee County if the fishing wasn't good. It is - and you never know which story line the lake will script for you.
One day it's catfish bunched up around a man-made brush pile, hitting so hard your cork makes that awesome "cur-plunk" sound when they sink it. One day it's 20-pound grass carp feeding in the pockets and giving you more fight than you can handle on light tackle. One day it's largemouth bass bedding in water so shallow and so clear they might as well be wearing bull's-eyes.
Most recently, it was shellcracker - hundreds of them bedding in less than 4 feet of water. I ran across the bed, and all I could see was angry-looking, dark-colored fish swirling around in beds bigger than you're average kitchen plate. They bit fast and fought hard for hours. Man, talk about Xanadu.
Another thing that makes Lee County State Lake great is the people running the show.
If you're named Lake and you're managing a lake you had better be good at it, or the jokes could be painful. But the Lakes do the name justice.
Dwight is an old country boy with a Santa Clause beard and generous attitude to match. He's always got something cooking to make the lake better, and he's happiest when every fisherman leaves with something for the frying pan. His wife, Teresa, is a soft-spoken woman who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty when it comes time to weigh in a fisherman's catch. Their son, Shane, is a future middle linebacker for Huntingdon College who's nice to everybody except opposing fullbacks.
Lee County State Lake isn't for everyone.
While your big fiberglass bass boat is welcomed, the wake from your outboard is not. You won't find any 200-boat bass tournaments there. You won't find any ski courses either.
But if you remember what it's like to be without that big bass boat, you might find A LITTLE PIECE OF YOUR PAST.