“With your heart in your hands…”
Dateline: Across The River
There is a not well known, elemental rule of physics floating around out there in the universe,
had Einstein fished, you’d be aware of this,
which happens to be a flat out, undeniable, universal law.
A stands for: Angler
M stands for: Minnow Tank
L stands for: Lies…doubled.
In laymen, non physics terms it means this: If an angler is standing within sight of a minnow bait tank and that angler is talking,
he is lying,
and doing it more than once.
You can replicate this universal law in any bait shop in America,
ask just ask the dude who owns the bait shop.
“db, there are more big bass caught right inside this shop than is ever caught out there in Lake Seminole.” Mike Harrell, co-owner dude of the small Mom and Pop (or Mom and Dad as Mike called it) West Side Bait & Tackle in Bainbridge, Georgia.
All six of the customers standing around listening, shook their heads,
On the other side of the river from the Elite shindig going on is a small, white concrete building that sits back aways from the highway.
If you have your ipod on high, or your foot is a bit heavy, you’ll miss the joint.
Sign says, “Bait & Tackle,” but trust me, that doesn’t even come close to explaining what goes on inside the tiny store.
“I come in here everyday for an hour…”
Bunch of coughs suddenly occur.
“…okay, maybe an hour and a half, because we like family here, you know everyone who comes in for coffee in the morning, we talk about family, we talk about fishing.” Donald Culverson a local Bass angler who hits the water fishing 3 times a week.
There is another, little known, universal law, it’s a simple law, but it will ALWAYS help you if you want to find out just how big of an angler some dude is, lots of guys brag fishing, but are suspect, so here is a universal law that, quite frankly, I developed as an investigative journalist now known to do interviews within sight of a minnow tank. Here’s how it goes:
“Donald, what’s the biggest Bass you have ever caught weighed.”
“10 pounds 2 ounces,” said almost instantly.
“Hmmm, nice, hey do you have any kids.”
“Yep, 2, two girls.”
“Hmmm, how much did they weigh when they were born.”
And right there, you know you are talking to a real angler.
“…and the sweat on your brow…”
“My mother actually bought the store in 1972, she owned and ran it until she had a stroke in 2005. The place got shut down after that.”
I’m sitting in a small room that Mike’s mother used to use as a bedroom, it’s now used for storage, but over in the corner I can see a refrigerator and electric stove, another corner holds a couch, a nice lamp sits on a shelf.
“I was born and raised around here, worked this store all my life when mom owned it, but, but, I used to be a Plant Superintendent, you know, but…”
…but after several decades of working for the company, “the company laid me off, I’m still young, I’m 57, still have lots of good years left in me, can still contribute, but one day, one day, well you know…”
Mike just started looking around the room, he’d look at me for a second, then look around, you knew, you felt, his mother was everywhere…
“…so in 2009 I took my retirement money, my savings and me and the wife, we opened Mom’s place back up.”
The place is open 7 days a week from 5:30am to 6:30pm, closed only Christmas and Thanksgiving…afternoon. “I work it most everyday, take Monday off though.”
That’s 78 hours a week, but, “I love it, I enjoy meeting and talking with people…” and then he be comes the THIRD person in Bainbridge to say the exact same thing to me, “…because I have never met me a stranger.”
‘cept, he’s not actually, you know, my uncle.
“…you build the things that really…”
Mike: “Just about every angler who comes in here, they don’t ask how I’m feeling, how I’m doing, no, all they want to hear is…The Cantley Report.”
And as I look to my right, The Cantley Report is looking at me,
the smile that is the last thing a minnow sees,
“Hi,” says Larry Cantley.
“Hi,” says me.
I expect Larry to drop-shot me at any time, I’ve seen this look before, usually when I have just said something that riles my buddy, Tommy Bifffle, up
Uncle Larry is about to “Biffle” me.
Uncle Larry: “Where you from.”
Me: “Not here, where you from.”
Uncle Larry: “Here.”
Well, that went well.
Mike jumps in. “If Larry is not catching fish on the lake, no one is catching fish on the lake.”
Larry is just looking at me.
“My roommate caught 30 pounds on your lake yesterday, “ I say so that Uncle Larry knows I write for B.A.S.S., and not to confuse me with a Bass.
Mike’s wife, Deborah comes out from behind the counter and shows me a newspaper clipping of Larry holding a huge stringer of fish, another newspaper photo shows him straddling the largest turtle I have ever seen in my life.
I turn to Larry with only one question on my mind…”What happened to the turtle,” but before I could say it Larry says, “We took some photos of it, measured it, then let it go back into the water.”
That’s when I started calling him uncle Larry. “I’m a roofer and I install siding but usually I’m out on the water 3-4 days a week.”
“Really, what’s the biggest Bass you have ever caught weighed.”
“11 pounds, five ounces.”
I never asked him,
about his kids.
“…make the world…”
“We are like a community meeting place, this place is packed in the morning with anglers coming in for coffee and sharing stories.” Brad Reynolds.
At first I had no idea where the “Yep” came from, wasn’t me, wasn’t Brad, wasn’t Mike so who…
“…I come in here all the time, fish for bass.”
Turns out the “Yep,” and other words came from behind me, from a dude named Jackie Thomas.
“I fish bass tournaments as much as possible…”
I start to write that down…
“…in fact I’m fishing one on my Wedding Day…”
I stop writing.
“Dude…that might not be the best way to start a marriage.”
“Ah it’s okay, my fiancée says that as long as I’m standing there at the altar at 6pm, she doesn’t care what I do during the day…so I’m going fishing.”
With that, the entire community in West Side Bait & Tackle laugh, and then Jackie says to me, “We are getting married July 5th, honeymooning on Lake Eufaula…going fishin’.”
Not surprised. Jackie…and the soon to be Mrs. Jackie…have a great, long, loving marriage.
As I’m leaving, Mike’s wife, Deborah, came up to me and said, “db you know that I mainly fish for Brim, but lookey here…”
And with that Deborah shows me a blurry photo on her phone, and as I squint to see what it is she says to me,
“I’ve caught me a bass too, caught it on my Brim pole.”
And behind her,
the regulars smiled,
Working Man’s Ph.D.