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Spring is here, the trees are budding and each day is a little bit longer than the last. Fishing season is on the way, and to welcome in a new year spent soaking lines, we’ve put together a gallery of Outdoor Life’s 35 best fishing covers. The gallery starts in 1917 and runs chronologically all the way up to our most recent April issue, which is on newsstands now.
Avalon–A Gem in the Pacific April 1917 “The honesty and veracity of a true sportsman is never questioned. There is absolutely no envy, jealousy, animosity, conceit nor egotism in his makeup. He is a lover of nature.”
Hooking the Giant Tyee August 1930 “I cast out quickly again. Over a little way, a fight was in progress, and pretty soon a big fish was seen slashing the surface water with his broad tail. A quick crack on the head as he snaked alongside, and the salmon was done for.”
Cookies Brookies June 1939 “About the first week in July, d’you see, is when the big lads strike, though there’s a few early ones every year, mind. I was I was down by the bridge last evening and hooked a few nice pan fish.” Painting by Walter Haskell Hinton
Fisherman on a Horse August 1941 “Always have my best luck fishing with grasshoppers,” Pete told me. “Cowboys all carry a hook and line in their saddle pockets, and when they get ready for a meal they catch a grasshopper or two for bait. Seems as if these trout just can’t resist the hoppers.” Painting by Walter Haskell Hinton
Last Chance to Fish July 1943 “This battler dived, tugged, and twisted; then, when this type of scrapping got him nowhere, he changed his style. Up he came to the surface, about 150 feet behind the boat, and went into the air. You’d have thought he was a land-locked salmon, the way he acted. As a battler he went beyond his weight class, for he scaled but four pounds.” Painting by J. F. Kernan
Bass Don’t Speak English August 1947 “I shouted at Dave to quit saying ‘Whoops!’ every time he had a strike. ‘You scare the fish,’ I said. It irritates me to hear somebody keep shouting when they get strikes, although I never disturb myself shouting when I get one.” Painting by J. F. Kernan
Practice Rainbows May 1950 “The jolt of that strike went right up to my shoulder, and I heard the reel scream as line smoked off. Then the water thirty feet below boiled open, and in the pale light I saw my trout–a match for Leon’s big one–stand on his tail two feet above the water, then fall back with a loud splash. ‘Clear the decks!’ I yelled in Leon’s general direction. ‘I got him!’ That was another mistake. Rainbows of that size are never reduced to possession until wet, trembling fingers slide firmly into quivering gills, or the lifted net swishes upward.” Painting by J. F. Kernan
How to Use Wire Line January 1953 “Talking to strangers into posing for paintings isn’t my long suit, but I finally did it. He was a swell model and got a kick out of posing for the cover. In fact, he entered so heartily into the spirit of the thing that I’ll not be surprised to hear he has gone down to Florida this winter and tried to make the picture come true.” Painting by Charles Dye
New High in Sails February 1954 “The fish struggled to get free, churning suds into the cockpit. ‘Hit him, Eddie, hit him!’ Holden’s hand was being clobbered against the side of the boat, but he hung on. Though he had mangled and broken his hand billing a fish in this manner, Holden never uses a gaff on sailfish. Even the weight of the blood lost by gaffing may mean the difference between a record and just another fish.” Photo by Grancel Fitz
Travel Tackle June 1956 “True, if you always travel by car it’s easy enough to pack a few rods. But it isn’t always politic to decorate your car with fishing tackle on a business trip.” Painting by Charles Dye
The Fish Wore Purple July 1957 “The grayling seemingly prefers underwater and surface insects to all else, and is pure delight for the fly man… He’s so easy to fool with the fly that I’ve often thought he should be declared legal game only on feathered offerings.” Painting by Tom Beecham
Miracle of The Scatters June 1958 “I snapped on a silver-flaked floater and lobbed it into the wake of a big, feeding fish. I waited until the ripples died, then twitched the plug a little. Nothing happened. ‘Slosh it,’ Franklin urged.” Photo by Carroll Seghers II
The Fish Scooter July 1958 “It may look like a joke, but the laugh’s on fish it takes you to in the vast, untouched shallows.” Photo by Bob Brister
Fury in Silver March 1961 “As the six-foot fighters rolled unhurriedly across the emerald quiet of the of the gulf of mexico, their gleaming sides winked and flashed in the midmorning sun. Their scales were the size of silver dollars, for these were silver kings – the great Tarpon atlanticus.” Photo by George X. Sand
Opening-Day Circus April 1961 “Walt and I knew that some 450,000 Washington anglers would be up with the dawn, hustling to reach the best fishing spots. Practically everyone, women and kids included, would catch trout — rainbows, cutthroats, and brookies — but only a relatively few would get limits of fish averaging half a pound or larger.” Photo by DC Gillam
What Fish See July 1961 “The suns rays slanted into the water in ribbons that illuminated the bottom. Where algae and weeds were thick, the water looked green as grass. Sunlight bounced off tiny particles of drifting matter, turning them into diamonds.” Illustration by DC Gillam
Greatest Rainbow Trip May 1964 “One look was all we needed. Our timing had been right. The run was in, if Ernie hooked one in five minutes of fishing, then there must be thousands waiting for us in the lower reaches of the University River. Our 500-mile drive and the rough boat trip were going to pay off. There were eight in our party, and every man felt like dancing a jig.” Painting by Denver Gillen
Voyage to Wilderness Fishing July 1967 “She was ready to pick it up for a final cast when the pike struck. It seemed to come from nowhere to gulp the spinner, and then it almost cartwheeled up onto the deck. Sue had trouble keeping a firm grip on her tackle.” Painting by Frank McCarthy
Best Fishing in America? March 1975 “Before I could catch my reel handles, a silvery sockeye came up and out of the water in a crazy tarponlike jump.” Photo by Erwin A. Bauer
The Long Rod Back February 1977 “Why would a man who loves to fish allow himself to be shown on the cover of Outdoor Life as a breaker of fly rods? The answer is simple. I believe it’s time for anglers all over the country to come to their senses about rod length.” Photo by Peter Miller
Bassin’ Mann March 1977 “Back in those days I’d catch a bunch of big bass on my lures, put’em in a cooler and take them to a local shop and say, ‘Here’s what I caught.'” Illustration by George Schelling
The Amazing Mayfly May 1977 “In a few minutes inch-long insects were swarming all over me, batting my face and hands, and alighting on my clothing. The lake was boiling with feeding fish that were hitting not only the emerging flies but the nymphs as they rose to the surface. ” Illustration by George Schelling
The Fish That Takes 1,000 Casts July 1977 “Even hooking a muskie is no guarantee you’ll catch it. Most likely it will throw the hook. It often does so by quickly driving straight toward you as if to make you take the lure back, all the time trying to gain slack line. Then it jumps, not the graceful way a trout or bass does but with the reckless abandon of a bucking horse. Hold it tight, and you’re a muskie fisherman. From then on, I guarantee no other fish will satisfy you.” Painting by George Schelling
Life and Death of the Largemouth February 1979 “A largemouth doesn’t include human beings in his diet, but it isn’t because he doesn’t try. I have been bitten several times by a male bass defending his eggs.” Photo by Elgin Ciampi
Giants of the Deep March 1980 “These heavyweights of the sea have little to fear in their world. Weighing more than 1,000 pounds, they prowl the depths… consuming unbelievable number of fish to satisfy their gargantuan appetite. Hook one and chances are that he’ll smash your tackle… and your boat.” Illustration by Sandy Huffaker
Big Bass From Small Waters April 1984 “If you’re in the market for a prize largemouth, you don’t have to churn up thousands of acres of reservoir water in the attempt. That pond right down the road may be the home of the biggest bass of your life.” Photo by Paul Johnson
The Bass That Thinks It’s a Trout May 1984 “Some days, you can catch river bass until the cows come home. But then there are other days–when you’d swear these temperamental creatures are part brown trout.” Photo by Erwin A. Bauer
How to Take Bass at Night May 1986 “The thief, a six-pound largemouth made its way into some submerged timber. My line stretched taut but held as I bulled the fish out of the obstruction and toward the boat. The bass took to air, sounding like a 10-pounder as it splashed back into its home territory.” Photo by Wally Eberhart
Current Tactics for River Walleyes February 1987 “Most river walleyes are actually under-fished, only because most anglers don’t know the secrets of catching them. But if it’s aggressive walleyes you want–and a lot of them–go with the flow.” Illustration by Scott Zoellick
Last Chance Bass May 1988 “There’s a kind of gnawing voice that speaks to the back of the mind on certain days. It usually comes sometime after lunch, after you’ve pounded the water all morning without success. If you listen, you will hear the awful whispered suggestion that on this day you may very well end up skunked.” Illustration by George Luther Schelling
Bass Guide May 1995 “Largemouth bass are ambush feeders. They skulk in cover, waiting for food to happen by, and then attack their prey with a powerful burst of speed. If it’s large panfish they’re after, bass will strike head-on so that the prey’s dorsal fin folds back as it slides into the stomach.” Illustration by Al Agnew
Big Bass Water May 1996 “In many shallow tributaries where I used to see hundreds of big bass spawning every spring, only a handful of small fish remain. What’s more, the big bass that do survive are harder than ever to catch: Subject a superior fish to relentless fishing pressure and eventually it learns not to bite.” Photo by Burton McNeely
The Biggest Bass of All Time? Summer 1997 “The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘I’ve got to show my wife this fish.’ It never crossed my mind to kill it,” says Duclos. “I wasn’t thinking about a world record. I was thinking that, before I let this fish go, I just want an idea of how big she is.” Photo by Paul Duclos
Shallow Thinking May 2001 “The appetites of bass diminish in winter as their metabolisms are affected by cold water. They don’t go hungry; they just lighten up on their menu. That’s why small, shallow-running crankbaits are particularly effective when bass want lighter meals in colder weather or when a cold front passes.” Illustration by Mark Susinno/Wild Wings

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Catch Monster Fish April 2012 “Slap your 2-pound crappie on the dock next to a 70-pound flathead and, no matter the trophy class of your speck, the giant whiskered beast makes you feel like a Nancy-boy of an angler. So this year, to hell with catching numbers of fish. This year, earn man-points by catching the sasquatch of all fish…” Photo by Satoshi Click on the links below to see some of our other best covers galleries. Outdoor Life Magazine’s 35 Best Whitetail Deer Covers
The 30 Best Outdoor Life Bear Attack Covers of All Time

We put together a gallery of the 35 best fishing covers from Outdoor Life magazine.