This weekend is going to be interesting. My mother-in-law and her husband arrive in Pittsburgh Thursday for a visit. They haven’t been up from their home in Texas for a while, but this trip isn’t just social — there really isn’t much social to it at all, in fact.

They’re coming to watch a fishing tournament.

Let me be more specific: They’re coming to watch THE fishing tournament. The 2005 Citgo Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing, as we’ve been told. $200,000 for the guy who catches the biggest fish over three days.

Look. I’m one of those guys who either laughs or bitches when the fishing shows are taking up time on ESPN that could be devoted to college football. But this apparently is a huge freaking deal — a multi-million boon to Pittsburgh’s economy, something that’s going to bring thousands of fishing aficionados to somehow watch the tournament. It’s going to be on ESPN2 nearly non-stop this weekend. And The Wife’s mom — and her husband, both of whom fish in tournaments at home — are coming up for the fun.

I’m actually looking forward to this. I mean, I’m looking forward to seeing my MIL and her husband, but I’m also looking forward to the fishing stuff. All kinds of events are scheduled, and we’re going to hit up a bunch of them. There’s a huge outdoor gear show in the convention center. And the daily weigh-ins, held each afternoon of the three-day tournament, typically fill arenas with screaming fishing fans.

Yes. I did just write that. And yes, I really am looking forward to the whole deal.

I haven’t done any actual fishing for years. Dr. History and I used to try when I spent summers with his family in northern Wisconsin. Over several summers, I caught a total of probably a dozen fish, most of them not worth keeping. Or even mentioning, for that matter. But I mention them proudly, mostly because I wouldn’t want it to seem like we were incompetent. Even though we were. We set out one day in two separate boats, intent on holding our own two-man tournament. We switched locations, we worked the structure, we changed up lures so we were fishing with the appropriate stuff at the appropriate times and places.

And neither of us caught a goddamn thing. Very nice. We were ridiculed for the rest of the summer.

I came close, a couple of times, to what would have counted as impressive catch. Once, Dr. History’s sister had hooked a sunfish off of their pier, and the little guy swallowed the hook. While she ran up to the garage to get a pair of pliers, I knelt on the dock, swishing the fish back and forth in the water. Just before she got back to the dock, I saw a long, striped fish swoop from under the pier and swallow the sunfish whole. That was a good-sized muskie, the big fishing prize in that part of the country. Lots of big pointy teeth on those fuckers, and those teeth were about 10 inches from my hand, which was left holding nothing but the nylon line.

My other encounter with a muskie was a little closer to an actual fishing triumph. Dr. History and I got up early and headed to a little bay in Lake Tomahawk to find us some bass. We didn’t find any bass — I never found any bass up there, despite claims by otherwise reliable people who insisted they were present. So just before we were set to bag the fishing in favor of the water skiing and, later, the drinking, I started casting into the opening of the bay, and almost immediately hooked a muskie that was clearly long enough — 32 inches was the standard, I think — to be a keeper. I wasn’t using a leader — a length of wire connecting the lure to the line — because we had been fishing for fish without substantial teeth, and I was concerned that the muskie, which, as I stated earlier, definitely has teeth, would bite through my line, so I decided to try to get it in the boat as quickly as I could.

And it worked. I reeled the fish up next to the boat while the doctor scrambled to get the net. The cotton-cord net, probably as old as we were at the time. The net, which as the doctor scooped up my greatest fishing triumph, that broke, dropping my trophy, which had just chomped through my line, back into the water.

The pros won’t have that problem this weekend, largely because A) I imagine they have better equipment than we did back then, and B) I’m certain they know what they’re doing. But I would get a kick out of seeing at least one of the pros step up during the weigh-in, smile and shrug his shoulders: “Fish? Hell, there aren’t any fish in those rivers…”


  1. Fish On!
    One question, one, well, fish story. First the question – so, where is the tournement – the Ohio, Allegheny or the Monongahela? (and yes, I did have to refernce a map for the spelling). What would happen if someone caught a 70lb. catfish living at the bottom of the Ohio?
    Now the story. This involves myself and Dr. & Mrs. Koi (kewyson’s parents). Way back when, when the Koi family lived on the beach of South Carolina, much consideration was given to the idea of buying a boat, a sea worhty boat – for fun and relaxation. No three hour tours here thank you. We needed something that could handle a 70 mile run off-shore to catch some Marlin! Now these boats don’t come cheaply, and Dr. Koi is a fairly astute business man, so he decided to take a test ride, so to speak.

    We rented, or had captianed, a 24′ fishing boat for a 1/2 fishing trip. Wanted to go out and see what it would be like to be out in the ocean on a vessle of that size. If my memory serves me right, the cost of this trip was just shy of $500 – not cheap.

    We took off out of the harbor full of visions of handfuls of mackeral, dolphin (the fish – Mahi Mahi) and even a sea bass. We soomed out to a couple of artificial reefs – trolled, and trolled, and trolled – listened to the radio – nothing, not on our boat, or others. Suddently, our 1/2 day was quickly running out. The captain was beginning to get a bit nervous, because, this was, you know, a fishing trip, and nothing was brought aboard yet, until . . .
    Dr. Koi was in the fighting chair – and the line spooled out with the customary bizzzzzzzzzzz. Dr. Koi got ready for a battle – quickly, however, he found out that this was one strong fish – speculation ran high on the boat- what was it – tuna, wahoo, even the occationsal bill fish –
    this thing was tough to pull twards the boat – 50, 60, even 70 lbs. was the learned estimate.

    Well, no such luck – it was a 12 lbs. markrel – as we trolled by his area he was defengin – who aid, ew always wanted tl gove her away onfriday – but where do owr keep the reet? Thee fish was harpooned on the sid of its boday – That would oule not fo what wee neede.

    We ended up not buying a boat afterall-

    Rember, yell loud and proud, ‘ Fish On’ )


  2. Whoa, clarification needed on that last paragraph – sleep pretty much took me over, what am I doing still up???

    Well, no such luck – it was a 12 lbs. mackrel – as we trolled by this area he was defending, the hook speared the side of this poor fish just below his fin. When Dr. Koi tried to reel him in, he was being pulled sideways (hence the innacurate estimates of size). Well, that was the only fish landed that day – and he didn’t even take a hit at the bait!

    We still didn’t end up buying the boat – we did, however, take home some mighty nice mackrel, which went for close to $50 a pound that day.

    Fish On!


  3. I was going to ask you about that last graf. Jesus, I thought stoned thumb-typing was bad…

    The answers: They’ll fish all three, including on the Ohio almost all the way to, you know, Ohio. That’s way down the river by where I’ve worked for the last 5 1/2 years. And carp won’t count; befitting the name “Bassmaster,” the only fish eligible are largemouth bass, smallmouth bass (which, I’ve read, is going to be the biggest deal here) and some kind of striped bass.

    If anyone catches a carp that big, we’re not calling ESPN — we’re calling Guinness, for the book of records and, um, probably some beer.

    The one deep-sea fishing experience I had didn’t even have the excitement of the mackerel. Father of Uncle Crappy and a co-worker of FUC (wow, I’m pretty sure Dad wouldn’t like that acronym) took all their kids out on a boat for a day. They had been out on a previous vacation, and my Dad’s friend got horribly seasick. So what does this clown do when he’s taking the kids? He fed us all enough Dramamine to make sure we slept through most of the day. Our catch was one seven-inch something-not-impressive-enough-to-remember fish.

    Even as a little kid, I pretty much knew that guy was a dick.


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