By Josh Gowan
Personally, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around “recreational fishing”. It’s a term used for people who go fishing to relax, which is a peculiar concept to me. I relax between 11 pm and 5 am, when God intended me too. When I’m fishing, I’m doing everything in my power, and exerting every effort to catch as many fish as possible, but hey, to each his own I suppose.
In this article I will be referring to fishing amongst recreational boaters, the Hell’s Angels of the water world. I have in fact, although I’m ashamed to admit it, been out on a boat, in a lake, without a fishing pole and for the sole purpose of “relaxing”. I did not plan the trip, but was required to go, predominately for my wallet, ability to steer a pontoon out of a dock without killing anyone, and to tote heavy objects from one place to another. While I did not exactly object to floating about on a raft in deep, blue-green waters with a cold beverage, I couldn’t help but think how much better the entire experience would have been if I were holding a pole, anticipating a THUMP.
There’s a lake not far from my house that I rarely fish because the crappie run much smaller than at Reelfoot, but they have a big charity tournament in the middle of the summer, and I was going over in a media capacity to write an article and take some pics.
My partner Chippy called last minute on the day before the tournament and said he was off, and let’s just fish the tourney. Not having fished there but a few times in the spring, I got the map out and decided we’d just get out there early and scan the main channel ledges.
I found a big brush pile right on the main channel ledge, threw out a marker buoy and dropped 16 minnows on it. We spent the early morning hours catching tiny fish, hoping the big ones would bite at some point.
Around 10 am a peculiar sound began emanating from the big end of the lake. It started off as a low and distant rumble, and emerged as if all of the spring breaker’s in Panama City rode a thunder cloud into my living room, while DJ’s from around the globe competed for the loudest speakers. Spending most of my time on my Northwest Tennessee swamp, I completely forgot that some lakes have this issue, and was regretting setting up on the main channel, but without a plan B, we had nowhere to go.
We were sitting still, smack-dab in the middle of a 6-lane highway with no apparent speed limit. I must say, the advancement of towable, aquatic floatation devices has come a long way since I was young. At one point, there was a pontoon pulling what appeared to be an enormous hot dog with an entire Boy Scout troop aboard about 15 ft. to our left, while a half speedboat half jetski contraption pulled a giant cylindrical situation just off to our right, with a couple kids rattling around inside like stretched out turtles in a dryer.
Our boat didn’t rock, it convulsed. I likened it to a Congo line of epileptics at a laser light show during a lightning storm.
Around lunch we actually picked up a few 9 1/4 inch hogs… The traffic slowed and the fish got active, and then in the distance a mysterious convoy appeared. 6 young women, all quite healthy and pushing the plastic clips on their rented life jackets to the max, on matching yellow and white jetskies headed right for us, smiling, waving, and yelling in an inaudible falsetto that seemed a bit off key. I thought it fortunate that jetskies are void of struts and axels, and wandered about the strength of their transmission. They narrowly missed the tips of our poles, and the last girl, who’s jetski was only white (although I suspected the yellow was somewhere under water) t-boned my marker buoy and drug it a half-mile or so before it bailed… Recreational fishing is not for the faint of heart!
Right about when we’d had all we could take, a wakeboarder swung right along beside us and did a grinding move of some sort, which kicked up such a spray that the minnow bucket overflowed and both of our automatic life jackets engaged. I guess the sound of the dual co2 charges going off, along with the words of encouragement Chippy and I lofted his way must have distracted him, as he took a very acrobatic fall just past the nose of the boat.
He completed a rather impressive gymnastic combo which Chippy described as a classic double windmill-cartwheel into a gainer with two twists (one to the left, and one to the right) culminating into the rarely seen spread-eagle face plant. He awoke to see us emphatically giving him his score of 4, although if we would have had another hand I’m sure it would have been a 5!
The good news was, since the fella’s driving the boat were oblivious to the loss of their rider, possibly due to the mixture of American lager and the soothing sounds of Metallica, we had ourselves a new marker buoy!