Surfing in a bass boat

Watching the sun set on Canada last night, I contemplated the wild, rough ride Brandon Palaniuk would encounter today on his run to Henderson Bay off Lake Ontario. The young man said he had already negotiated 6- and 8-foot waves earlier in the week, but my companions, Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer and Alabama pro Boyd Duckett, said the lake could get even rougher today. Both men said they had fought 12-foot waves on Ontario in the past, and there definitely are tricks for surviving those conditions in a bass boat. First, you don't want to run into the waves, Duckett said. Even if it means zigzagging -- tacking -- to reach your destination, you need to stay in the troughs between waves as much as possible. Traveling with the wind and waves lets you make much better time, but even then you have to be extremely careful. Duckett said he tries to climb to the top of a tall wave and ride the crest momentarily as he judges its condition. "If it's breaking, you don't want to cross it," he warned. Wait until it slopes more gradually, and then ride down the face. Otherwise, the bottom will drop out, and your boat will come crashing down in a bone-jarring, equipment-breaking belly flop. Fortunately, the waves are widely spaced, and skilled boaters -- as anglers at this level all are -- should be able to make good time.

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