Culture of the green machine

Jerry McKinnis

I stood in front of the giant fish aquarium at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., the other day and kind of went into a trance watching the fish. You ever been there? It's worth a trip even if you're not there to buy something. Just go to one of the aquariums and watch the fish. Go at feeding time if at all possible and I dare you to not buy something.

Anyway ... I was fixed on a 2-pound bass who was just suspended there, gills barely flexing and his big eyes, or I guess I should say his big eye, was looking right at me. We were in a stare-off, and as this was happening I would like to think that the thoughts going through that bass' mind were grand pertaining to his world and outdoors in general. But truth be told, I'm sure he was only wondering when the next feeding time was.

My thoughts were a little deeper. I was thinking what an incredible green machine he was. How dominating he was in his own environment with his instincts so top level that we have a hard time evaluating them.

Then I thought about something that I'll bet never occurs to most people. This little guy and his family lives under the water and we only see him occasionally, yet he has created a whole culture. A culture that spends hours upon hours trying to figure him out, trying to anticipate his next move in order to win a few battles against this little green fish, from time to time.

Fortunately for him, as smart as we think we are, his instincts or knowledge trumps ours most of the time, but that's another story. I'm thinking about what a bass does for our life.

Did you ever stop to think how much money is spent on travel, equipment, education, etc., that's pointed toward outsmarting this creature? Is there any other example to compare this to? Probably, but I don't know what it is.

Look at that big fully rigged bass boat drifting along the shoreline of your favorite lake. 250-horsepower engine, trolling motor, the best electronics, Power-Poles, livewell and on and on ... You know what that rig cost? I don't need to tell you, and that fish I'm staring at caused it all. "When's the next batch of minnows going to show up?" That's all he's worried about.

Then you look around Bass Pro Shops' awesome facility and you see giant waterfalls, more aquariums, restaurants, outdoor clothing and equipment, displays like you can't imagine. Oh, sure, there's lots of things that have no direct connection to a bass, in fact there's maybe more hunting equipment in sight than fishing gear. But if you cornered Johnny Morris and asked him what really caused this whole phenomenon, I'm betting that he would point at the fish that I'm staring at.

The example of how a bass affects the economy could go on and on and you could add many that I haven't even thought of. But there's another part of this fish that I haven't mentioned ... maybe the most important part. He has brought people together who have formed lifetime friendships. He has caused clubs to form that end up raising money that helps a needy cause, which has nothing to do with bass fishing.

In a couple of months from now, thousands and thousands of people will attend the Bassmaster Classic and put a million dollars into the economy of New Orleans. That will be a drop in the bucket for what they've been through since the Classic was last there, but it's something. And chalk it all up to our friend who has now swam over to the backside of the aquarium and I can't see him as well.

Then there's this one last thing. Something that this bass does for us individually. Something that has no dollar signs connected to it or no organization, or crowds, or websites hanging on.

If you're a bass fisherman, or have ever caught a bass, you know where I'm going when I say that this fish can become a part of your DNA if you don't watch out.

In a conversation with Rick Clunn recently, he said something that will not leave my mind. Something that ends this blog perfectly.

"You work at your job to feed your family. You bass fish to feed your soul."

Wish I had said that.

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