- Don Wirth
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"Harry, what's with all these scientific books and magazines?" I wondered. I examined some of the titles scattered about his den: Scientific American. Journal of Ichthyology. Exploration of the Moon.
"I've been doin' a little research," he muttered, deep in thought.
"Research?" I laughed. "About what?"
"I've been researchin' the impact of the lunar influence on critters here on earth," he explained. "For example, did you know that mayflies hatch out on the full moon, or that salmon do the same with their spawnin' runs?" I always get a kick out of the way Harry pronounces the "L" in "Salmon."
"What's so earth-shaking about that?" I scoffed. "Every country boy knows that critters get more active when the moon is full!"
"According to the scientists what wrote these books, bugs, fishes 'n' such uses the moon like a big ol' clock! Take mayflies, f'rinstance if they hatched out a few hundred at a time, they'd all get gobbled up by birds and bluegills, and purty soon, no more mayflies! But when they all hatches out on the full moon, suddenly you got trillions of mayflies flutterin' about, and there's no way they's all gonna get eaten! That way, enough mayflies will live long enough grow up, marry and have little mayflies of their own. It's all about survival of the species!"
"Interesting," I yawned. "But what does it have to do with our never-ending quest for lunker basses?"
"It's got everything to do with it!" Harry insisted. "Do you realize what month this is?"
"It's June," I said. "Says so right on that Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar on your wall!"
"Well, it was June of 1932 when George W. Perry caught the world record bass 22 pounds, 4 ounces, to be exact! And based on my lunar calculations, ol' George caught his mega-lunker on the full moon!"
"Imagine, a dirt-poor Georgia farm boy landin' a world record bass," I mused. "That was one lucky catch!"
"Now it's my turn to catch a record bass!" Harry announced. "And I'm gonna do it through science, not luck!"
Harry explained that according to his research, the superior members of every species get big 'n' strong by doin' all the right things. Take lunker basses, for example. They get humongous by bein' smart and ignorin' all the goofy-lookin' lures we fishermen throw at 'em! And, they know by instinct that their most important mission in life, besides gettin' us fishermen all riled up, is perpetuatin' their species! So when it's time for them to, excuse my French, spawn, the biggest lunkers in the lake is all gonna head for their nuptial beds on the full moon! That way, all their little fish fry will hatch out at the same time, so they don't get all gobbled up just like with them mayflies!
"The full moon is this comin' Sunday, and based on what happened to George Perry 77 years ago this very month, we oughta have our best shot of the year of catchin' a giant bass on that date!" Harry pointed out. He produced a hand-lettered chart: "Check it out, I went back through my fishin' logbook and logged every bass over 10 pounds we've ever caught, and what lake it came from. I ciphered that 63.81 percent of them lunkers came from Belly Button Bayou, so that's where we're headin' this Sunday!"
"Now you'll get me all riled up!" I exclaimed, moppin' my brow. "I better go put fresh line on my reels 'n' sharpen my hooks! I don't want no equipment failures in case I latch onto Mr. Big!"
I couldn't sleep a wink on Saturday night, so I sat up watchin' the Godzilla marathon on Channel 89 until 4:30 a.m., when Harry pounded on my back door. "Let's hit the road!" he insisted. "I wanna be on the water by first light so's we can sneak up on that record bass!"
"Ain't we gonna stop at the Truck-A-Teria for breakfast?" I complained.
"Fish now, eat later!" Harry demanded. He handed me a paper sack that weighed about 25 pounds: "Here, have some of Maybelline's homemade molasses cookies! They's left over from last Christmas, so I'd recommend soakin' 'em in your coffee cup for an hour or two to soften 'em up!"
Dawn broke as we slid Ol' Stump Jumper into the lake. "Let's head for Blue Ball Creek," Harry suggested as he cranked our ancient Wheezer outboard. "That's where 39.74 percent of our Belly Button Bayou lunkers came from, so I reckon that's our best place to start!"
A thin layer of fog hovered over the water as we putt-putted into the creek. What with all the lily pads, cypress stumps 'n' sunken logs to hide out in, and all the bluegills, frogs 'n' snakes to chow down on, it was easy to see how a bass could grow to record size in here! Harry eased the boat towards the bank, cut the engine and dug a ridiculous-lookin' pair of sunglasses out of his shirt pocket. "Where'd ya get them silly shades?" I giggled. "You look like a dang jet skier!"
"These here glasses are triple-polarized, so's I can peer down into that black bayou water like an X-ray machine and spot lunker basses!" Harry explained.
"I reckon I'll have to locate 'em the old fashioned way with a big ol' spinnerbait!" I chuckled. I flung the magnum-size lure toward shore, slow rolled it across a log and spooked a huge bass! When it swam off, it made a swirl big enough to surf on!
"Whoa! " Harry said excitedly. "That sowbelly must be on her nest! I'll circle back around and check it out with my new specs!" He dug the scullin' paddle into the water and the boat did a quick 180.
"Whaddaya see, Harry?" I whispered as he craned his neck toward shore.
"I see my name in the record books!" he said nervously. "Quick, hand me my hawg stick! I's fixin' to do George Perry one better!"
I squinted into the black water and could make out the faint shape of a huge bass! The blimpoid behemoth was a yard long and big around as a pickle barrel! "She's 25 pounds if she's an ounce," Harry said under his breath. "Get the net ready!" He cast a foot-long swimbait up onto the bank, popped it into the water, and retrieved it slowly so its triple-jointed body slithered right in front of the monster's mouth. The huge fish just sat there, totally uninterested. "OK, then, try this on for size!" Harry threatened. He rigged up a 10-inch lizard and hopped it repeatedly across the nest. Again, no reaction. Finally he picked up a spinning outfit with a tiny jig on it and said, "I hate to resort to this, but I'm gonna hafta finesse this beast into bitin'!"
Harry pitched the teensy jig onto the lunker's nest. Suddenly the monster rushed the bait, then froze, her nose less than an inch away from it! "C'mon, girl! " Harry begged. "Eat it! " As if on cue, she opened her mouth, taking in a huge rush of water, and Harry's jig along with it! When she closed her mouth, Harry slammed back the spinnin' rod.
Zzzzztttt! The reel's drag sang as the record bass bolted off her nest, bendin' the whippy rod to the breaking point and putting serious strain on his 6-pound line! I gotta hand it to Harry he played the lunker like a champ, and by the time he'd worked her close enough to land, she was finnin' on her side, plum tuckered out. Finally he grabbed her with both hands and hauled her into the boat.
"You did it, Harry! " I gasped in amazement. "You caught the new world record! That fish is 25 pounds easy! Hurry, we gotta get her to a grocery store to get weighed, then we'll have to contact a game warden! He'll wanna do an autopsy to make sure there ain't no lead weights inside her! You can't be too careful when filing a world record claim these days!"
"To heck with the record," Harry scoffed. "It ain't worth sacrificin' this fish over! I'm gonna let her do like Nature intended and finish up her spawnin'!" My jaw dropped as he gently slid his prize back into the water. She suspended motionless for a few seconds, then gave a quick flip of her massive tail and swam back to her nest where she belonged.
"Releasin' that monster is the most beautiful thing I ever seen a bassin' man do!" I sniveled, chokin' back the tears. "I could hug you, Harry!"
"Try it and I'll whup ya upside the head with my hawg stick!" he warned. "C'mon, let's head for the house. They's runnin' more of them Godzilla flicks on TV this afternoon! That's the only monster I wanna think about at the moment!"
16hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne