Iffin' on Lay

The nation's largest wireless network may be a true statement, but there are less bars in more places of this portion of Alabama. After five days, I've figured out the exact position that I have to sit in the camper to get a signal strong enough to make a call.

It happens to be on the inside cushion of the dinette. Not too far from the edge. Face the sink. Hold my left arm up just a little above the table; one leg on the floor, the other on the step of the dinette. I have to remember to speak slowly and not nod my head.

Even with all those contortions, a dropped call is a surety. The wireless card for the computer is even worse.

To get connected to the internet, the laptop has to be sitting on the front of the table at a 45-degree angle to the door. Antenna must be extended (I tried using a wire coat hanger to extend it further, but that didn't work out so well) and I can't sit down.

I have to stand in front of the Dell and it helps to put my right leg up on the dinette step as I lean over the table. Maybe I'm trapping the signal with my chest and channeling it into the antenna. When a connection is made it is s-l-o-w.

I'm afraid to send very many emails, because I'm not sure I wouldn't beat them home next week. Stupid wireless service.

This wouldn't be a problem in an ideal world with an ideal resort. It's a problem here. Evidently in certain parts of Alabama, the word "resort" is used rather loosely. Palm trees, blue water, sandy beaches, or, at the very least, some green grass would be present in my ideal "resort".

A "resort" would have little bungalow's with cable TV and a wireless tower nearby. Not here. None of that. At the Last Resort, we have concrete pads (bonus!) scraped into the side of the red clay hill (red clay that sticks to e-ve-ry freakin' thing when it rains) mixed in with shale, some gravel, and less bars all over the place.

I've even tried the Robin Williams on-the-roof-of-the-RV from the movie RV without success. The neighbors just looked at me like I was weird. Or something.

So why put up with the crappy wireless service and mud? Bassmaster Classic. Half a million dollars. Somebody's gonna win.

I'll gladly put up with a few less creature comforts a couple of days for that. I've actually done with far less just for the fun of it and no money on the table. Dangling from ropes on a multi-day ascent of a rock wall. Been there.

Sleeping (if you can call it that) on ledges no wider than a body. Done that. Climbing frozen waterfalls with ice tools and crampons strapped to boots. Bought the T-shirt. Have the pictures to prove it. Never made a dime for all the blood, sweat, or tears that I shed while doing any of those crazy things. Who needs the internet?

After eight days on Lay Lake, I've come to realize that this is a small lake. A very small lake. I have no idea if I've found what I need to find. No really sure if what I've seen will work 90 days from now or if I've just burned up a bunch of gallons of gas for naught. At least I know my way around the lake. Just how do you practice for a tournament that's three months away? That's always puzzled me.

I think I've found some areas that will hold big fish in 90 days, when the females are thinking about doing the big nasty up on the flats. Think I've found where they will do their business. Think I've figured out where they will stage before they get up there for the dance.

Think I've found where I can catch a decent limit of solid keepers to start each day. Think I've found where they will hang if the weather's cold and nasty. But I don't know. I think. Maybe.

The current conditions are so completely different from what they will be in February that the best I can do is a bunch of "if-so" or "if-then" fishing.

If the weather is warm, then the fish should be here. If the water is high, then the fish should be there. If a frog had wings, then he wouldn't bump his butt. Whole lot of iffin' going on out on Lay Lake these last few days before the lake goes out of bounds for the Classic contenders.

Right now, the fish are gorging on shad in a big way. Little shad, big shad, and any size shad they can get their green lips around, the Coosa spots and largemouth are slurping 'em up. They know that winter is on the way and they are putting on some serious fat before it gets here.

There are so many shad in Lay right now that all a bass would have to do in some of the lake is simply swim around with its mouth open to get a meal. It's crazy — sick with shad. It's also pretty thick with anglers, too.

Not sure that I've ever been to a lake that had so many people fishing in the winter. The boys and girls of Central Alabama are serious about their bass fishing. I had one day last week, the coldest day, when I had the lake relatively to myself. Even then, there were 6-8 rigs at the Beeswax ramp, many of them locals.

A day with a high of 40 in Arkansas, you'd have any lake you wanted to yourself, especially if deer season was in swing. Central Alabama must truly be the center of the bass fishing universe. Of course when you have fish to catch, you're gonna have people chasing them.

While I'm looking forward to the return trip to Lay in February to see how the fish change, I'm not looking forward to slogging around in the red clay at the Last Resort. Not looking forward to less bars in more places. Not looking forward to intermittent TV reception — hey, digital TV is not all it's cracked up to be.

All these things are a small price to pay for a shot at the Classic crown, though. On the bright side, there's no tree in the way of our DirecTV reception; it's a clear shot to the moon.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.