That gut feeling

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Phillip Lawless

In the world of tournament bass fishing, we use the words “gut feeling” a lot to try to describe the reason we made a certain critical decision at the right time. It was a “gut instinct” to switch ends of the lake, or I had a “gut feeling” to start throwing topwater and then I caught three big ones.

When I do seminars, folks will ask me, G, what’s that gut feeling feel like? Is it really something you feel in your gut? Or is that just from putting too much hot sauce on your hash browns at the Waffle House that morning?

Is it a burning, itching kind of feeling? Or is that just heat rash from fishing ledges in 100-degree temperatures?

And I really don’t know how to answer that question because it’s sort of unexplainable. But I recently had an experience that was pure “gut feeling” that is the best example I can give of a gut decision. And it wasn’t a tournament-related fishing decision either; it was a gut decision made in a different light.

I recently took my wife and our grandbaby out on Guntersville for a little boat ride and a few casting lessons – hey it’s never too early to introduce them to fishing, right?

At about noon, I returned to the Waterfront Grocery ramp (where I had put in) to drop her and the baby off so they could return to the camper. I had planned to go back out and fish a little bit more before calling it a day. But before I did, I beached my boat, hiked up the hill and sat down in the Waterfront to have lunch. About the time I was finishing up lunch a guy walks in the store, comes over to me and asks me if I had any tools to remove the spark plugs out of his outboard.

Unfortunately for him, I was using my hunting truck that day to pull my boat and I had no tools with me. Double unfortunately for him, he had put in over at the State Park, on the other side of the lake, which was a pretty good haul from his truck and trailer.

He borrowed a wrench from the store and we both walked back across the road to the ramp. As we walked he was telling me about this older boat he had just bought and how he and his buddy were over here at Guntersville trying to enjoy a few hours of fishing when his boat broke down. He was hoping it was just a fouled plug, but it sounded a little more complicated than that.

At the ramp, we parted ways. He headed to his boat with just a wrench and I hopped in mine, idled out of the no wake and put it on pad to go fish the rest of the afternoon. But I couldn’t think about fishing. All I could think about was those guys and their broke down boat. I had been there – many times – especially earlier in my career when I just couldn’t afford new spark plugs or a new cranking battery.

Suddenly, in the middle of the lake, I made a U-turn and headed back to Waterfront. I idled right back up to the guys who were already pulling the motor apart. I beached my boat next to his, pulled the keys to my truck out of my pocket and said, “You see that black Toyota Tundra parked up there? These are the keys to it. I’m going to put them in the gas cap. If your boat doesn’t start and you guys need to drive around to the State Park to get your truck and trailer so you can take out here, you’re welcome to use it.”

The guys seemed stunned at the offer. As I walked back down to get back in my boat, the guy said, “Hey man, I appreciate that and I want you to know, we aren’t going to take or steal anything from your truck.”

“I know,” I said.

“I’m actually a cop,” he added.

“I know,” I said again.

Now I’m not claiming to be Sister Future the Palm Reader here, but I just knew those guys were good dudes with a broke-down boat who badly wanted to fish. I had been there before dozens of times myself. And what are the chances he would walk in the store at the exact same time I was in there? When I made the U-turn to go give some complete strangers the keys to my truck, I didn’t even think twice about it. I just knew that was the right thing to do.

When I returned later that afternoon my Tundra was parked in the same place and everything was still in my truck, including a 20-spot and a note on the seat that said, “We used your truck to drive around and get mine, thanks so much for the help.”

That’s a gut feeling...