It was the dawning of a beautiful day.  Day one of tour stop three of the Women’s Bassmaster Tour at Old Hickory Lake.  We had just arrived at our first spot of the day.  The steamy fog was settling in patches just above the surface of the water.  In practice, I had found the morning “top water” bite to be fantastic so my obvious plan was to keep my “crazy shad” glued to my hand.  I had a few short strikes right away.  No worries though, I knew what the potential of this area held.

I cast my bait next to the bank and let the rings fade.  Twitch twitch pause twitch twitch pause, keeping an intense eye on the lure, I was suddenly distracted by something approaching fast from the upper right side of my peripheral vision.  Before my brain could digest what was happening, an owl swooped down and grabbed my bait.  As it ascended upward back from where it came he hooked himself.

At this point, it appears as if I am flying a kite.  My amazed co-angler exclaims, “what are you gonna do, what are you gonna do”?  I reply, “There isn’t a thing in the “Pro” manual that tells me how I am suppose to handle this one”.  The owl swoops back down as lands in the water.  He is terrified, as am I.  This gave my a moment to gather my thoughts.  I knew I couldn’t cut the line,  that was a great lure, no just kidding, I knew the owl would get twisted around the line, stuck in a tree and die a horrible death.

As that thought entered my mind, off he went again.  His wing span appeared to me to be about twelve feet, but in reality, it was more like four feet.  As I flew the owl like a kite again, a small sparrow began to attack the poor trapped owl.  The sparrow dove at the owls head about five times before the owl headed for the water again.  I tried to reel him closer but he kept flying off, each time being attacked by the sparrow.  Finally, I was able to reel him close to the boat and swing him in.  At this moment I realized that he only had one claw hooked.  And in that same moment, he started to panic and kick his legs at which time, he hooked his other claw. So now, he has all six hooks embedded in his claws.

My co-angler got a glove for my left hand and handed me my pliers.  I could see the horror in the owls eyes.  I tried to place my hand over the owls face but he wanted no part of that.  He pecked fiercely at me and pushed his claws outward toward me as much as he could, considering.

I removed my sunglasses (ok, so in hindsight that could have been bad) and said to him softly, “Look dude, either let me help you, or your going to die”.  I then, placed my hand on his chest and started working on the first three hooks.  This is when I noticed, and paid very close attention to just how long his nails were.  Being a manicurist, this scared me.  The first set of hooks came out fairly easy.

The second three however took a little more force and time, but they came out all the same.  Ironically, there was no blood and he never even flinched.  I backed up slowly and said to the owl, “Your free”.  He just lay there though and starred at me not moving a muscle.  So I said,”Dude, get off my boat so we can go fishing”, and just like that, he stood up, spread his beautiful wings, and flew up to the tree he came from.

On day two, as I left the weigh-in stage a young boy asked that I sign his autograph book.  As I was signing it, he told me he had heard about me catching the owl the day before.  He look at me with his great big eyes and asked, “Will you put under your name, “the owl whisperer”, so I will remember who you are?

Though my “top water” bite never paid off, and it was not a great tournament for me, the experience of this made up for it all.  I hope to remember that moment forever and savor all of the wondrous moments that only anglers get to experience.

Michelle Armstrong