One reason is bass are so popular is the magnificent bucket mouth handle, and the “Bass Thumb” that it creates.
Though many fish can be held at least partially by the mouth, no other freshwater fish is endowed with such a gratifying grip. Toothy pike or walleye will only be “lipped” once. Catfish jaw strength can be intimidating enough to grab a net. And when posing with tiny-mouthed sunfish, photos usually reveal a pinky out as if the angler were still nibbling a scone at a dainty tea party.
Though a slight injury, “Bass Thumb” is not an accident. It results from repeatedly lifting bass with a wet thumb. Tiny partially detached pieces of skin are created by gripping the diminutive, cheese grater-like teeth of the bass’ lower jaw. This strangely satisfying indicator of success, even days later, still serves as a reminder of time better spent.
Chris Lane, winner of the 2012 Bassmaster Classic showed off his Bass Thumb at a tournament a couple of years ago. My son is always proud of a little damage to his opposable digit. And his little sister once commented that her right thumb was getting a little sore from releasing bass. When I asked if she wanted to stop she said, “Nope! I’ve still got my left one.”
When someone asks, “How’s the fishing?” hopefully that thumbs up gesture will also display the impressive evidence of Bass Thumb.