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…”