Those of you who follow the standings saw that I didn’t weigh a fish last week at Lake St. Clair. The reason was simple. I didn’t make it back in time for the Thursday weigh-in and I spent Friday letting my co-angler catch the fish. There was no point in my catching or weighing anything after I put a zero in Thursday’s column.
Out of my mess — it was all of my own making — I have to say that modern technology, engineering and construction standards prevailed.
Here’s how it went:
In practice I found some good fish on a shelf out past Pelee Island. They were too far to run in the tournament, or so I told myself at the time. On Thursday, however, things changed. Coming out of the launch things were a little rough but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Then, after I stopped at Scudder Marina for fuel things looked pretty good.
The wind was light. The waves were small. Ignoring what I’d decided in practice, I decided to make the rest of the run to my spot.
After we caught a few fish, I thought we’d better leave. You always need to allow extra time to get back when you’re on Erie, St. Clair and the Detroit River. Given the weather, I felt safe going the shorter, southern route back. That was a bad move.
I thought we’d be early.
For some distance I was able to run about 50 mph. But as I got closer to the Detroit River the water turned ugly. For a while I was able to make some progress by running back and forth with the waves instead of into them. By the time I got near the river, however, about all I could do was keep the boat upright.
We did finally make enough progress to stop again for fuel. Shortly after that, the water got so rough that we couldn’t make it back in time. We actually had to stop and release our fish. There was no point in leaving them in the livewell.
I don’t really know how big the waves were, maybe 6 or 7 feet. It’s hard to tell. I was faced with both rollers and breakers. They’re very different. I honestly wasn’t sure my rig would hold together, but it did.
Modern bass boats and motors cost an arm and a leg. I can remember a day when a nice house cost less than a modern rig. They are not the rigs of old, however. They are marvels of American ingenuity. My Ranger boat and my Mercury motor performed exactly as advertised. If they hadn’t, you’d probably be reading my obituary.
The lesson here is that quality equipment matters when things are on the line. Anything might do in a small, calm body of water. But if you want to fish big water, you need the best. There will come a time out there when the expense doesn’t seem so great.
Another thing I want to mention is that if you aren’t familiar with big water, or if you don’t have a lot of experience handling big water, I suggest you go with someone who does until you’re qualified to be out there. These waters can be sweet and kind. They can also make your wife a widow.