Bob Buscher expects to catch a thousand pounds of largemouth bass this year. That’s an unreal amount of fish caught one at a time, from a small boat by one fisherman. On a good year, Bob fishes about four days a week; some years he’s out there two hundred days. There’s no contest involved, that thousand pounds is a personal goal, which means he’ll reach it.
“I like this place, I might learn to surf,” Bob remembered thinking after U.R.I. shut down the wrestling program which brought him here from Westchester, New York as a scholarship athlete. He stayed, surfed, fished and happily lived in a rented waterfront house. “I could cast in the yard, right out, I would surf out off the backyard and the bluefish would come up in September and chase us out of the water.” When you’re young and onto something new, people in your circle can be a little skeptical. Some cousins told him he wasn’t living in reality. “Well, it’s kind of my reality,” Bob told them. Settling in so easily to such an unplanned life change now seems almost like the start of a love affair.
“I’m a trout fisherman,” he confirmed, extolling his passion like a badge. His father was a bow hunter, his uncle taught him to trout fish using salmon eggs for bait. He remembers fishing for big native brookies in streams that fed the Hudson and watching eels come up the same river. “I learned how to fish there by drifting an earthworm down the stream,” he said, with small hooks and a light drift. A simple start to a lifetime on the water. Later, his parents bought a place upstate, near a creek that fed the Esopus River, famed for its cold pools and fly fishing. “I came to Rhode Island and the streams were like swamps, there was no edge, they just flowed through the woods.”
That didn’t slow him from finding fish.
He took to commercial fishing on big draggers and the Oceana out of Pt. Judith for ten years. On the latter, they gill netted mainly for bluefish through the summer, in close and offshore. Bob began to understand rhythms and cycles. If stripers were on the beach, bluefish went deep. “If it was kind of calm,” he said, “bluefish were here and stripers were there,” he said, moving his arms east and west. Over time, he watched things change. “I was throwing away more than I could keep,” he said, expressing one of the great commercial fishing conundrums of our times. Freshwater fishing was something for relaxation, after fishing for work. Fishing for a check was increasingly frustrating, so he left the business in 2012.
Bob remembers weights and measurements like a scientist. He recalls a ten pound pike in Worden Pond caught ten years ago, a 6.42 pound bass landed in February, a 6.12 pounder he caught in 1991 to win the states in Bassin’ magazine, which landed him a fishing trip to fish in Florida. He caught a 19.4 pound pike in Hundred Acre pond then caught it again at 21.6 pounds then again at 22 pounds. He recognized its colors and particular white spot, because that’s what fishermen do, they observe and remember. In 1998, Bob caught a 6.6 pound and a 7.14 pound largemouth the same day and remembers each clearly.
“I push the envelope, I really enjoy fishing when no one else is out there,” he said. He understands success comes from being aware of everything, he pays attention to his surroundings, as the best fishermen do. “They’ll tell you what they want to eat,” he said, almost wistfully. Every time he mentions fish, he smiles. Every time.
“Where it’s a tough tournament, I do pretty well. I seem to do as well as anyone on Indian lake.” For five years he fished the tournament trails as much as possible, winning several, earning a few dollars and having fun with his friend, Scott. He also brought his young daughter as a net girl, giving her ten percent of any winnings. “She charged a dollar if I swore,” he said through a laugh. How fantastic to spend time with your Dad, experiencing the excitement of competitive fishing and taking home some money too. He fishes less tournaments these days, saying, “I have kids, you know how that is.” His net girl is now 14. “She’s my fisherman,” he said, his smile somehow growing larger. “She fishes a pink frog. She makes me cry sometimes. She catches some monsters.”
The love affair grows.
“I had an hour, so I just went,” he said, referring to a decent winter largemouth he caught last month. That was February, when most boats are hauled and most fishermen aren’t fishing. That quote really sums up a lot about Bob Buscher. He’s proud of his work ethic, his family, his place in life. He’s the personification of focus and joy with perspective of how short our lives really are. “Five people I know died in the last month. I said, ‘you know, it’s time to buy a boat’.” This year he’ll be casting from a new 17’ Tracker bass boat, a very uncharacteristic purchase. “I’m a hard worker, I save a lot of money,” he said. Chances are good though, that the sparkle of a new boat won’t outshine the sparkle in his daughter’s eyes. “My daughter always beats me up,” Bob laughed, “That’s my girl. That’s my life.”
Bob Buscher is a South County fisherman on his way to catching a thousand pounds of bass and this time, they’re all going back alive.