Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fishing at 70mph

I came home from Christmas this year and found a printed form on my bed that said “Skeeter Eliminator Series” and a note from my best friend, cousin, and roommate, Seth “BassMonster” Slocumb, indicating that instead of our ordinary exchange of Christmas hunting paraphernalia; he had entered me in the Skeeter Eliminator Series tournament on Sinclair. As we’re both poor in the boat department, we were to go “no-boat.”

In due course our registration materials came in the mail, followed immediately by several expensive trips to Bass Pro Shops, and a general sprinkling of fishing equipment in inappropriate places throughout the house. I didn’t notice quite how overboard we’d gone until my girlfriend (at the time) hopped in my truck, hollered “HEY! OUCH!” loud enough to override the Robert Earl Keen sounds coming through the stereo, and gingerly removed a chartreuse crankbait from her nether regions. At that point I realized “I think we’re good in the lure department.”

She’s long gone, but I’ve still got that crankbait.

I received a friendly call from Mike Millsaps, my boat-owning partner a few days before the tournament and we arranged to pre-fish beforehand. We fished for an afternoon and I realized – “I like this Millsaps guy.” He knew what he was doing and used his equipment like a surgeon, hitting his spots fast and with precision. We ran around the lake, talked fishing a bit and decided on a productive pattern; then arranged to meet at Little River Park before blastoff

The morning of the tournament dawned at the usual time but, due to the pea-soup fog engulfing the lake; we never saw it. Blastoff was delayed an hour or so – a good thing for me since it was 30 degrees on the water and I had forgotten my gloves, but by the time we were all waiting to start it was still freezing cold and the fog had only just begun to lift. Once on the water, Mike looked at me and said “Wwwaayyuull, holler at me when they call out number 15” then, to my surprise, he reached behind him, lifted a motorcycle helmet out of his rod locker, and slid it down over his head – kicking the faceguard shut with a snap of his neck.

Not being terribly familiar with fast-boat tournament fishing, I was a bit taken aback, but it was so cold that I just sat down on the padded seat of his Ranger Z19 and stuffed my hands under my knees to stay warm. Mike grinned through his rapidly-fogging lenses and said “hey there fella’ – you better haaawwlld awwn!” then, they called our number.

Friends, the boat ahead of us disappeared into the fog about 200 yards off our bow and when Mike laid the hammer down on that Evinrude Etec 225 all I could think was “I am going to die without ever owning my own boat.” I looked over at Mike, tears streaming out of my eyes, hands numb, and realized: “the fog is so thick, he’s just following the other boat’s bubble trail.” The speedometer said 70mph, my brain said 200mph, and my mouth WOULD have said something too, but the excessive drool whipping out behind the boat in a slobbertrail befitting a Great Dane prevented any timely remarks.

We hit the first wake and my entire body flew up out of the boat, hovered for a second, then came back down sprawled out on the bilge drain. Grinning, Mike slowed in order that I might collect myself, and said “Tawwldd you to hawwld awwn to that there handle little fella’!”

Held on I did, for dear life, and we scalded the topwater of the mud-brown reservoir for another ten minutes to reach our destination.

It was tough on the lake that day and the fish weren’t biting like we had hoped, but we had a ball. We talked about strategy, and baits (most of mine were wrong); Mike showed me some great tips for finesse fishing and rigging (I broke off frequently); we played with rods tried new tackle; we got hung up, and fell over, and stuck the trolling motor on hidden structure. We even caught a fish or two here and there – Mike more than I, but still - it was a huge success.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Auhh.. there you are. My life is back on track.

your California hill billy