Our bass club tournament was scheduled for Saturday, and frankly I was worried. Me 'n' my fishin' buddy Harry hadn't performed up to our usual level of excellence in any of our tournaments so far this year, and we was fallin' behind in the points standings. We needed to get our act together and win this event, but how was we gonna break our slump?
"Don't worry," Harry said confidently as we headed to Belly Button Bayou for some pre-tournament practice. "We're gonna win this Saturday — I guarantee it!"
"It's good you got a positive mental outlook, but be realistic," I laughed. "Nobody can guarantee they is gonna win a bass tournament!"
"I can!" Harry winked. "I got a secret weapon!"
"The last time you had a secret weapon, it turned out to be a new worm dunk," I chuckled. "Remember? You ended up spillin' the entire bottle in the Lunker Express, and we had to park it with the windows down for six months to get the stench out!"
"I've been workin' on this new project for months and finally got it perfected," Harry insisted. "I'm fixin' to prove it to ya!" We arrived at the bayou and slid Ol' Stump Jumper, our trusty johnboat, into the murky water. Harry looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody else was lurkin' about, then pulled a small black box out of his pocket. "Check it out, Charlie!"
Inside the box was a funny-lookin' little homemade crankbait. It had one rounded side and one flat side, and a stubby divin' lip what was riddled with tiny holes. "What in tarnation do you call this thing?" I chortled.
"I call it our ticket to bass fishin' fame 'n' fortune!" Harry said proudly. "I designed 'n' built it myself!" Now that much was obvious — I'd seen art projects from second-graders that weren't as crude as this plug! I was gonna needle Harry some more about how goofy it looked, but before I could open my mouth, he tied it to his line, chunked it out and began a slow, steady retrieve. The homemade crankbait skittered through the water like a jackrabbit hopped up from an overdose of caffeine! It veered to the left, then to the right, and popped out of the water altogether! Then the most amazing thing happened — when it got 10 feet from the boat, it disappeared in a humongous boil!
"I ain't believin' this!" I gasped as Harry swung a 10-pound momma lunker into the boat.
"See? " Harry grinned. "Them big 'uns goes absolutely bonkers for it!"
"Lemme try it!" I insisted. I chunked out the wacky-lookin' lure and commenced to windin'. The daffy plug ran this way, then that way, then popped clean out of the water. When it dove back down, a 6-pounder ate it! "Harry, this is unbelievable!" I exclaimed. "How can somethin' so stupid-lookin' work so good?"
"Search me!" he replied. "It could be the way to changes direction. Or maybe it's the way it jumps out of the water. Or some weird vibration made by them little holes in the lip. All I know is, lunker basses won't leave it alone!"
Harry had made his point in spades. We was both way too excited to practice any more, so we headed to Zonker's Tavern to calm ourselves with a brewski or three.
"Well, look who's here!" drawled Harry's archrival Wilbur Wangle as we entered the watering hole. He was accompanied by his tournament partner/bass club president Crusty Popodopolous.
"Shouldn't you two be out on the bayou tryin' to locate some basses?" Crusty wondered. "You're gonna need to catch 40 pounds come Saturday if you wanna pass me 'n' Wilbur in the points standings!"
"We practiced five minutes, plenty of time to assure us that we're gonna hand you two has-beens a major-league whuppin' on a silver platter!" Harry replied smugly.
"Oh yeah?" Wilbur growled.
"Yeah!" Harry growled back.
Well sir, just liked Harry predicted, his secret weapon came through big-time in the tournament! We took turns using it and boated a bass on nearly every cast! After some serious culling, our five best weighed a whoppin' 49 pounds! "I reckon that puts our team ahead of your team in the points standings!" Harry pointed out to Wilbur 'n' Crusty as we collected our trophies and pot money.
"Just exactly how did you guys catch them basses?" wondered Wilbur suspiciously. "It ain't normal to bring in a bag of fish that big this time of year!"
"I'll let you in on a little secret," Harry allowed. "We used a lure I made myself, and it works like gangbusters!"
"Really? Let's see it!" Crusty demanded, peerin' into our boat. But Harry had already snipped off the homemade plug 'n' squirreled it out of sight.
The ride home was a triumphant one. "Son, we cleaned their clocks but good!" Harry enthused, pumpin' his fist in the air.
"But what happens if we lose your secret weapon?" I asked with concern.
"Don't be such a worry wart!" Harry pooh-poohed. "We ain't gonna lose that plug! It only dives a foot deep, plus the reel I'm fishin' it on is spooled up with 50-pound catfish line!"
"Still, you might oughta carve us out a couple more for insurance," I suggested.
"For your information, it took me two months and 37 stitches in my fingers to make the one I got," Harry grumbled. "I'll make another one in the unlikely event I lose it, but not until then!"
Feelin' mighty cocky, we entered a big regional team tournament on Lake Flatus the next weekend, boated 38 pounds of bass and copped first place, worth a thousand bucks! "Let's quit our day jobs and turn pro!" Harry allowed, givin' me a high-five.
"I've been entertainin' that scenario myself," I admitted. "Tell ya what, we got another bass club tournament next weekend. If we whack 'em like we did the last time, I'll turn in my notice at work and we'll hit the tournament trail!"
Lookin' back, if Harry hadn't cast his secret weapon to that exact spot at that precise second, we might be big-money bass pros now instead of two rag-tag rednecks bobbin' around in a leaky johnboat. But he did, and when he started to wind in his homemade plug, a 7-foot-long behemoth what looked like somethin' dredged up from the dinosaur age opened its huge toothy jaws and chomped down on it with a sickening CRUNCH!
"Oh no!" moaned Harry as the scaly-lookin' monster took off for the depths. It was the biggest, scariest alligator gar in the bayou — 400 pounds if it was a ounce!
"Hang on, Harry!" I pleaded. But it was no use! The prehistoric-lookin' beast was havin' no problem strippin' that 50-pound line off his reel. Harry tightened the star drag down as far as it would go and grunted, "I think I got him under control now!" through clenched teeth. But he was wrong. POW! When his line finally broke, it sounded like a gunshot!
"We're screwed now!" I exclaimed, panic setting in.
"No we ain't," Harry said confidently. "See? I took your advice and whittled out another plug just like it! I'll put some new 50-pound line on my reel, then we'll be back in bidness!"
I cast the replacement plug to a stumprow. In fact, I made 20 casts & and never got a single hit! "This dang plug don't run the same as the other one," I complained.
"Here, gimme that #@%* rod," Harry cussed, jerkin' the hog stick from my grasp. He cast secret weapon No. 2 repeatedly to the stumprow, but hauled water as well. "What the heck's wrong with this bait?!" he sputtered. "Maybe I didn't get the holes in the lip drilled 'zactly the same. Or maybe the flat side's too round and the round side's too flat! Or maybe — "
"No need gettin' all riled up about it, Harry," I sighed. "That first plug was a happy accident, and we both know you'd never be able to make another one exactly like it in a hundred years! So why don't we just keep our day jobs, rig us up some scuppernong Jelly Worms and go back to bass fishin' the way we always has! Who knows — we might get lucky and catch somethin'!"