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Evolution of a Lady Angler

8/3/2007
On a trip this July to Mexico's El Salto Lake, the author's wife Theresa caught dozens of nice bass like this. Keith Sutton

Last week, my wife Theresa told me her wrist was hurting.

"It's really painful when I move it," she said. "I'm not sure what's causing it, but it's giving me fits. I may have to go see the doctor."

"Fishing wrist," I said.

"What?"

"Fishing wrist. Your wrist is sore because of all the chunking and winding you did last week down in Mexico."

We recently had returned from a week-long fishing trip near Mazatlan, Mexico. For three days, we fished for trophy largemouths out of Angler's Inn on El Salto Lake. We were on the water 10 hours each day, making hundreds of casts and fighting scores of big bass.

Another day was spent fishing for dorados on the Pacific at Mazatlan. No casting was involved this time, but the action was nonstop for hours as we reeled in one fish and then another as quick as we could get a bait out.

All this activity gave Theresa a bad case of fishing wrist, something she never experienced before.

Theresa grew up in a family of fishing folk. Her mother, father and two brothers all are avid anglers. Yet, for some reason, Theresa never caught the fishing bug. When we started dating 14 years ago, she told me she'd be supportive of my own fishing addiction, but that I shouldn't expect her to tag along on many trips. Fishing just wasn't her thing.

The fact of the matter is, Theresa did wind up going with me on a lot of fishing trips. She didn't fish, but she'd often go along and read a book or work on her tan while I dunked a bait for catfish, bluegills, crappie or other species. The fact that she always seemed to go when the fish weren't biting didn't help matters. Nothing I said could coax her to pick up a rod and reel.

"If you were catching a lot of fish, I might try it," she'd say. "But I get bored real quick when nothing's biting."

That's the way it was for several years. On the rare occasions when I convinced Theresa to go with me, the fish didn't bite, and she didn't fish. When the fish were biting, she was never there.

A trip to Lake Charles, La., provided a turning point. We were there for a writer's conference, and some friends invited us to join them for an afternoon of saltwater fishing. One of the friends, Captain Sammie Faulk, is a fishing guide. The other, Ken Chaumont, works as a public relations specialist for several fishing lure manufacturers.

I can't say for sure why Theresa decided to go. She typically would have excused herself and spent the afternoon in the hotel room reading a book or napping. But on this day, perhaps as a courtesy to our friends, or perhaps because she sensed that these guys, unlike her husband, actually know a thing or two about catching fish, she chose to tag along. It was a decision she wouldn't regret.

Only minutes after we launched Sammie's boat, Ken hollered from his craft that Sammie should motor over so we could join him and his friends for some hot redfish action. Sammie gave Theresa a quick lesson on casting, and she launched a lure that had hardly settled in the water before a dandy redfish smacked it.

Theresa may not have fished much before this day, but it didn't show in the way she played that bull red. The fish took line. She reeled it back. The fish took some more. She gained it back again. To and fro they went for several minutes before Theresa finally brought the redfish close enough for Sammie to net it.

My camera was ready. I snapped a shot of Theresa with a big smile on her face as Sammie held her fish high for all to see.

Before our fishing day ended, Theresa caught several more nice redfish. I caught a flounder — emphasis on the word "a." That is a fact I will never be allowed to forget because before the evening was over, every writer at the conference had been given a complete report by Theresa, Sammie and Ken.

I'm not sure when Theresa next accompanied me on a fishing trip, but I believe it was a catfishing junket with guide Joe Drose on South Carolina's famed Santee-Cooper lakes. I do remember this: This particular outing also occurred during a writer's conference, and once again, Theresa caught more fish than I — a lot more. Theresa also made sure everyone at the conference heard how she had skunked me for a second time.

The next fishing trip I remember with crystal clarity. Theresa and I were about to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. She wanted to return to Cancun, Mexico, where we had honeymooned. I convinced her instead to visit another part of Mexico — El Salto Lake and Mazatlan. I had been invited to Angler's Inn by Chappy Chapman, and was told by Chappy I should bring Theresa along so we could experience their new couple's package. We could fish for bass on El Salto a few days, he said, then transfer to Mazatlan and go out one day for roosterfish.

Theresa agreed to my idea, and we soon found ourselves ushered into the beautiful camp on El Salto with margaritas in our hands.

I didn't expect Theresa would want to fish for bass, but she told me she wanted to give it a try and see what it was like. So at six the next morning, we met our guide Carlos and headed out on the lake.

Carlos is a great guide. He and Theresa hit it off immediately, and he worked diligently to teach her everything he could about catching bass in what many have called "the best trophy bass lake in the world." Within minutes, Theresa was casting and working a plastic worm like she'd been doing it all her life, and on almost every cast, she caught a bass. When I finally convinced her to go in for supper after dark that night, she'd caught and released more than 100 largemouths, including several 5-, 6- and 7-pounders. She was hooked.

For three more days, it was like that. While I cast big crankbaits and swimbaits, hoping to catch the bass of a lifetime, Theresa was chunking and winding plastic worms and catching hundreds of fish. I did manage to land the biggest fish, a fat 9-pound, 3-ounce hawg that is the biggest I've ever caught. But Theresa wouldn't let me forget that while I was dredging the water all day for a trophy, hardly catching anything, she was hooking and landing scores of nice bass.

When we went out for roosterfish in Mazatlan, it was more of the same. Chappy told me we'd be lucky to hook and land half the roosters that took a swipe at our mullet baits. And that was so — for he and I. Theresa, on the other hand, hooked every rooster that hit on her pole, including an beautiful 20-pounder, the biggest of the trip.

I've resigned myself to the fact that Theresa will probably outfish me every time we go out. So far that's proven true, and I have no hope she'll ever again sit back and read a book or catch some rays while I do all the fishing. She's an angler now, in the true sense of the word, and goes fishing every chance she gets. She even has her own custom-made purple rod and reel (her favorite color), a special gift from our friends at Shakespeare.

There is hope, however. A bad case of fishing wrist tends to flare up again now and then, and the hard fishing we did in Mexico recently sure gave her a bad case of it. Maybe, just maybe, next time we go fishing she won't be able to cast quite as far or as often, and I'll get one up on her.

And someday pigs may fly.

Keith "Catfish" Sutton is the author of numerous books on fishing. Autographed copies are available through his website, www.catfishsutton.com. He can be contacted at catfishdude@sbcglobal.net