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I once read a piscatorial pundit's pronouncement that the best part of going fishing was getting ready for the trip. The following episode should dispel that silly notion once and for all.
I'd been staring blankly at my computer screen for two days, unable to come up with an introduction to a BASS Times assignment, something involving lipless crankbaits, submerged milfoil beds and a Florida pro named Jim Bob, as I recall. The words just wouldn't come, so I opted to take a break in hopes that inspiration would enter my brain through a side door. I grabbed the remote, hit the sofa and began surfing through the mindless abyss known as daytime television.
I surfed past Jerry Springer breaking up a fistfight between two big gals who were competing for the romantic attention of some hip-hop dude in baggy pants, Dr. Phil counseling a wacky married couple, the Winter Olympics curling semi-finals, and 50 Cent's latest music video before finally coming to rest on The Weather Channel. My local forecast appeared on the screen: sunny tomorrow, high 75, winds light and variable out of the south. In other words, the perfect day to get the heck out of here and do some …
Bass fishing! Of course! That's exactly what I needed to do to free my mind. After a day on the water, the words would surely gush forth like a mountain spring.
But it was almost 4 p.m., and there was much to do in preparation for this trip. My boat hadn't been used all winter long, and the cranking battery was dead. My tackle was in total disarray. My truck needed a fill-up. My wallet was empty; not an uncommon phenomenon. The refrigerator was devoid of fishing snacks. I decided that I'd best get my butt in gear if a fishing trip was in my immediate future.
Looking back, I probably shouldn't have tried to drive through the automatic teller with my boat in tow. After withdrawing the cash, I made that same left turn out of the bank that I always do and proceeded to rip one fender off my trailer when it clipped the cash machine. No time to worry about that now, however. I had to high-tail it to the boat dealer, which closed at 5 p.m.
"Did you know you're missing a trailer fender?" the salesman asked when I pulled up in front of the dealership. I could tell his name was Darryl because it said so on his shirt.
"Darryl, I'm going fishing in the morning, and I need to buy me a cranking battery," I explained.
"You're in luck. Our annual Battery Blowout Sale is in progress," Darryl replied. "Two trolling motor batteries and a cranking battery, all for only $499.95."
"I don't need any trolling motor batteries, just a cranking battery," I explained. "And I need to have it installed."
"Yeah, but you know how them boat batteries are. First windy day that comes along and your trolling motor peters out."
"Just the cranking battery, please, Darryl," I insisted, noting by my official Kevin VanDam wristwatch that time was rapidly slipping away.
"Alrighty then, one cranking battery. We'll pop in a new one for only $213.95."
That sounded like highway robbery to me, but since it was nearly 5 p.m., the thought of driving across town to the Megalo Mart in rush hour traffic to buy a cheaper battery, not to mention messing around installing it myself, had me whipping out my credit card. Darryl wrote up the sales ticket, swiped my card and said, "Let me run back to the service department to make sure they haven't left yet."
He reappeared a minute later with the bad news: "Looks like they done went home. Can you leave your boat here overnight so they can install that battery in the morning? Should be ready to go by 10 o'clock."
"Look. I plan on being on the water at daybreak," I said firmly. "How about you handling the installation?"
Darryl thought about it for a minute.
"Well, I ain't too handy. Fact is, the boys back in service call me 'Hippo Hands.' But I reckon I can change out a dang battery. I mean, how hard can it be? Red's positive and black's negative, right? Back her into the second bay and I'll get 'er done."
I backed my rig into the shop and Darryl hopped to it. Hooking up the red and black wires was easy; it was those 50 other wires, all the same color, that proved to be his undoing. "Next time you might consider taping all the positive wires and all the negative wires together before you unhook them," I suggested as calmly as possible.
"Shoot, that's a good idea," Darryl agreed.
Three hours later, Darryl was still trying to sort out the wiring chaos. I was so running out of time, so I said, "Look, that's good enough. I'll just have to remember to hit the courtesy light switch if I want to fill the livewell."
"That, and press the horn button to trim up your engine," he added.
So much to do, so little time.
I roared out of the boat shop and pulled into a nearby gas station where I dropped a hundred bucks filling up both truck and boat and stocking up on honey buns, potted meat and other staples for my fishing trip.
It was 9 p.m. when I arrived back home, and I still had to get my tackle ready. I noticed one reel was sadly in need of fresh line, so, borrowing a tip from my "Weekend Angler" column in Bassmaster, I decided to save time by stripping off the old, kinky mono with my electric drill. Unfortunately, I forgot to depress the spool release button before I did this and ended up with a nasty welt across my face when I turned on the drill and the rod flew off the garage floor, whacking me upside the head.
Things got even worse when I picked up my jerkbait tacklebox while it was unlatched. Six dozen Rogues, Long As and Pointers tumbled onto the front deck of my boat, their needle-sharp hooks imbedding in the carpet like cat claws. I tugged at the entangled mass of minnow mimics with pliers, finally ripping them free of the carpet and driving 16 treble hooks into my flesh in the process.
"So, you're a fisherman?" the emergency room doctor asked while shooting some painkiller into my chest prior to cutting the hooks out of me. I thought of saying something sarcastic but decided not to since he was the one holding the scalpel.
As it turned out, all that rushing around was for nothing. My alarm went off at 4:15 a.m., but I was so out of it from that painkiller that I slept right through it and didn't wake up until noon.
I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.
When writer's block strikes, forget about bass fishing. It's too darn stressful, and besides, like Darryl said, your trolling motor always peters out when the wind starts blowing. Next time I'll just hit the sofa and watch Jerry Springer instead.