Yesterday, I spent the day with an old friend, let’s call him Ralph, chasing the ever elusive king of sport fish, the crappie. I am not much on boat riding when the crappie are moving in for their annual ritual of producing more crappie, instead preferring to sneak around quietly behind the trolling motor anticipating the “bump” that crappie fishermen live for. I am anything but politically correct, so “fisherman” is, to me, synonymous with fisherwomen, fisherkid, or fisherfolks……..I trust you’ll understand.
To suggest that Americans are competitive is an understatement that is unequivocal, sort of like suggesting that coffee is “not bad” first thing in the morning. When fishermen gather to discuss the day’s activities, numbers are going to come up in the discussion sooner or later, mostly sooner. If not the total number of fish, then surely the length of the “hawg” that may or may not have made it to the live well for his last ride before the indignity of the filet knife. The size of the crappie that comes unbuttoned at boat side is going to be described, invariably, as “a really nice fish” ……..even though we are measuring him by the unscientific method of suggesting size by whether or not the other fisherman saw the scrap between his partner and the fish…….a very reliable methodology! Most fishermen, when describing the day’s tally, rely on a time proven script. We tend to talk about the number of fish in the boat, irrespective of who caught more than the other. Believe me when I suggest there are far more rituals associated with fishing than one might see at a Masonic initiation….
Now to the point at hand……who has the advantage in a boat? Is it the fisherman up front, or the fisherman in the back? Well, I could be voted out of the brotherhood, but I am going to let this truth be known. If the angler in the front catches MORE fish than the poor fellow in the back, then he has the advantage. He sees new water first, can maneuver the boat to his advantage, and is 20 or so feet closer to new structure, thus guaranteeing his success. This is where it gets complicated. If the angler in the front catches FEWER fish than the fellow in the back, it is because he is tasked with running the trolling motor, watching for trees, boat eating docks and ladders, and the demanding mental task of deciding which bank to run while all the while reading the wind and determining approach strategy. If carefully managed, these rules will provide cover for both anglers when they chortle about their success, or lack thereof, when describing the day’s adventure to those interested in such weighty matters. Over the course of my fishing career, I have seen this ritual masterfully orchestrated by clever fishermen repeatedly. It is a skill that makes even clever attorneys envious. By the way, the fish in the top photo is not a crappie, but is bigger than a crappie, bigger is better, right?
So, how did we do yesterday? The reflective and clever reader can easily figure this out by reading this post…..but I will give you a huge hint…..
I was in the front of the boat.