Standing at five foot seven and weighing close to three hundred pounds, Brian was grossly overweight. He could still play a mean game of tennis, but playing “singles’ was now out of the question. The obese Oklahoman was still an excellent doubles player but as we became older I could tell that even the doubles game was starting to take its toll on his body. “Maybe it’s time that you found another sport to complement your tennis,” I told him, “What about golf or fishing?”
“Those sports are for old men,” he said.
“That’s not true; is Tiger Woods an old man? Did you know that more people fish than all sports combined?”
“I didn’t know that, but can you tell me the last time a golfer or a fisherman broke a sweat?”
“That’s not the point. At some time your body is going to break down from playing so much tennis. Then what are you going to do?”
“I guess I can take up cooking.”
“That’s all you need. Look, you have next Friday off; let’s take my boat out on Lake Ray Hubbard and drown a few worms. I will fill the cooler with beer and we’ll have a good time.”
“I don’t have any gear.”
“Don’t worry about that─I have plenty of stuff. We can stop off at the Bass Pro Shop in Garland for lunch and make a day of it.”
“Since you put it that way, count me in.”
The Bass Pro Shop had just opened one of their finest franchises on a prime piece of property overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard in Garland, Texas. The concept of building a store right on a thirty thousand acre reservoir would offer boaters and fisherman not only place to buy supplies while on the lake, but also an oasis from the summer heat when lunch time or happy hour arrived. The “Shop”could be easily accessed by pulling your boat around to the dock located directly behind the restaurant. With this in mind, I had easily persuaded Brian to take the fishing excursion with me. “Just wait until you taste one of those one pound Bass Pro Cheeseburgers,” I baited him.
Brian met me at the Rockwall boat launch at seven o’clock Friday morning and we headed south under the Route 66 and I-30 viaducts to a point just east of Robertson Park. There I spotted the swirling gulls picking shad off the top of the water (an indicator that the sand bass where schooling). “The fish are right there,” I told Brian. “When I get up close I’m going to cut the engine and then use my trolling motor so that I don’t spook the fish. Flip the slab, let it hit bottom, and then start to jig─we’ll be on fish in no time.”
I pulled the boat to the north end of the schooling fish, cut the engine, and let the south wind drift the boat through the action using the trolling motor to direct our path. “Start flipping buddy,” I said. No sooner than our slabs had hit the bottom than we both had fish on and since we were both using light tackle (six pound test line on spin casters), the full strength of the fish could be felt. We continued drifting back and forth by starting the main engine once we had traversed the school and then began the routine again, each time pulling in several nice sand bass and placing them in the live well. After about an hour, the fish had dispersed and we sat back to take a break. Picking up my coffee thermos, I poured a cup of Joe and asked Brian if he would like a shot of caffeine.
“Are you kidding me? I got such an adrenaline rush from catchin’ those fish that I’m shaking. Do you think it’s too early to crack a beer?”
“Naw, even though it’s only eight in the morning, I’m sure its happy hour somewhere in the world. While you’re in the cooler, get me one of those bad boys─I’ve had enough coffee myself”
We circumnavigated the lake several times searching for the schooling fish, but to no avail. The Texas sun had begun to beat on us and I started feeling a little light headed. “What’ya say we head to the Bass Pro,” I said, “I can smell them burgers all the way from here.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Brian said, seconding the motion.
I started up the boat, headed directly to the Bass Pro Shop dock, and quickly pulled into a stall. Tossing Brian a piece of rope, I directed him to tie the rear end of the boat to the metal post on the dock. “What kind of a knot should I use?” he asked.
“Just tie one that holds, Captain Nemo: in case you haven’t noticed this isn’t exactly the Nautilus.”
I secured the front of the boat while Brian struggled to gerry-rig some kind of land-lubbers nightmare knot to the back. “How’s that look?”
“You won’t be graduating from Annapolis anytime soon, but if it holds, it’s good enough for me.”
I jumped up on the pier and gave him my hand, “C’mon, I’ll pull you up.” Reaching down I grabbed his bear-paw with both of my hands and gave him the ole heave-hoe. The initial thrust nearly dislocated my shoulder but I was able to pull him out. “Man, you are a load; you need to lose a few.”
“Not today pal: I’m goin’ cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.”
Making our way to the bar, we sat down and ordered a couple of Bloody Marys. “Can I bring you gentlemen a menu?” the bartender asked.
“No sir,” I said, “Bring us two of your world famous cheeseburgers.”
“Very good choice; I will be right back with your drinks.”
We examined the enormous tropical fish tank behind the bar and became mesmerized by the “fantasia-like” colors flowing back and forth. “Someone told me that the tank cost several million dollars,” I told Brian, “they bring people in every day to service it.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said, “I feel like I’m underwater with Lloyd Bridges in a Sea Hunt episode.”
“Turn around and look up there on the wall. That there is a school of yellow-fin tuna and those over there are tarpon.”
“This place is like an aquatic museum,” Brian observed.
“That’s nothing─wait until you get a hold of that burger.”
The bartender brought us our drinks and rapidly followed up with our meal. “Bring me another Bloody Mary,” Brian said, “Do you want one?”
“No. The captain has to remain sober so that we don’t have any “Titantic- like“developments out there. I would suggest that you also take it easy; it’s supposed to be one hundred degrees today.”
“Don’t worry about me: I am a seasoned Bloody Mary drinker. Just ask my buddies that I attend the OU-Texas football game with every year. I’ve only got thrown in jail one time.”
We finished up our burgers, paid the bill, made our way down the pier and back to the boat “I’m to going to jump in first and then I can help you,” I said.
“I’m not crippled. Who won the club doubles championship last year?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah─in case you haven’t noticed we’re not on the court any more. Just be careful.”
Stepping down into the boat, I went to the front to untie the hull and noticed the back side of the boat had already begun to drift away from the pier. When I turned around, I saw the “dancing bear” with one foot on the pier and the other on the boat, his legs doing a scissor-like split. “What are you doing man? Get into the boat: This isn’t the friggin’ Ice Capades.“I watched in horror as Brian’s splits reached a tortuous dimension as the boat continued to drift.”
“Kerrrrrr-Plunk,” echoed throughout the marina as Brian belly-flopped into Lake Ray Hubbard.
“Hey man, are you all right?” I asked, looking under the boat. Brian bobbed up and down like a drunkin’ manatee.
“Just get me out of here.”
I looked out on the deck of the Bass Pro’s restaurant and saw a group of people having cocktails laughing out loud, while another boat pulled up along side me. “Don’t worry,” the man of the other vessel said, “We’ll have him out in no time.” He threw me a rope ladder and I hooked it to the side of my boat, “Permission to come aboard,” I said.
“Quit screwing around: that wasn’t funny,” Brian grumbled as he climbed aboard, nearly capsizing the boat, and beaching himself.
“What happened?” I asked him.
“That Okie nautical knot I tied didn’t hold and when I tried to step in the boat, it began to drift. Before I fish with you again, I’m going to take a class in advanced Okie, pre-Bloody Mary nautical knot tying.”
(excerpt from Gone Fishin’)