This is the first time he’s ever taken me on one of his bass fishing trips. He’s been coming to Lake Gordo for years now, but this is the first time his usual fishing buddies haven’t been able to make it. It used to be him and his dad and his brother who’d come out here and fish the day away.
Then, when his dad passed away, and his brother had to move for work, my dad met up with some work friends to take his fishing trips. He doesn’t work with them anymore, and since none of them could get the day off, he decided it was finally time to bring me along. And don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he wants to spend time with me, and it feels great to be included in his plans, but there’s just one problem with all of that: I hate fishing.
I do. I’ve never understood what’s supposed to be fun about it. We’re just going to sit here in this boat for hours on end holding sticks with strings that dangle in the water, hoping a fish will be dumb enough to take the bait. And we’re not trying for just any old fish. No, we’re trying to hook bass. I don’t even know what a bass looks like! I can see my dad reaching for the bait that I haven’t even begun to put on my hook yet, and I sigh, knowing that he’s probably wondering why he bothered to drag me out here at all.
It seems like all it takes is the blink of an eye for him to have all my preparations made for me, and before I know it, we’re rowing out to the middle of the lake. When we’ve reached the spot my dad seems to think is best, he lifts his fishing rod and tosses his line into the water. I try to mimic his actions to the best of my ability, but on my backswing, all I manage to do is get the hook caught in the hem of my t-shirt, pulling it up and over my head, getting me hopelessly tangled up in my clothes and fishing line. It takes me a second to find a peephole that will give me a view of my dad, but once I have, all I can see is the pitiful look my dad is giving me as he tries not to burst into laughter.
It doesn’t take long for him to situate his fishing pole at the edge of the boat so he can lean over and start helping untangle me from my mess. As soon as we’ve yanked the shirt back down and maneuvered the hook out of the material, I sit up straight again and drop my rod on the deck of the boat. My dad watches silently as I sulk in my seat, giving me a little time to run out of steam before laying a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Hey, bud,” he says, “What’s got you so frustrated?”
“I don’t know how to fish!” I can’t help but shout, “You know everything about this stuff, and I feel stupid sitting here doing nothing just waiting for a dumb fish to wander by!”
My dad is quiet for a moment as he realizes what I’ve said and thinks about it.
“I’m sorry, son, I didn’t realize I hadn’t shown you what I was doing,” he finally responded, squeezing my shoulder lightly, “I’ve been doing this for so long that sometimes I go on autopilot when I’m getting everything ready. I didn’t even think about the fact that you’d never been out here with me before. I can help you now, though, if you’ll let me.”
“Yes, please,” I mumble reluctantly.
“What was that?” my dad asks, with a mischievous little smirk.
“Yes, please!” I answer, finally cracking a smile.
“All right, then,” he laughs, taking up my fishing rod again, “let’s practice your swing.”
It takes a few tries, but after a while, I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. I swing back carefully and toss my line forward, watching as my hook arcs perfectly through the air and down into the water. Both my dad and I erupt into cheers, and he pulls me into a tight side hug. It doesn’t last long, though, because there’s a sharp tug on the rod in my hands. My dad pulls back to see what’s going on and we both watch with wide eyes as the line flies off its spool and something drags my hook way further out across the lake. The thing is so strong it even manages to pull our boat from where we’d been floating.
“Reel it in!” my dad shouts, clearly excited at the prospect of such a big catch.
I grab the little handle and begin pulling with all my might to reel the line back in. I pull it a little ways back towards us, but whatever I’ve hooked redoubles its efforts to swim away, making it hard for me to get the line to budge.
“Dad, pull with me!” I call to him.
As quickly as he can, he leans over and reaches around me to grab the handle where I’ve already got it in my grip, and we both begin to haul in the massive mystery creature together. When it finally breaks the surface of the water, my dad lets out a whoop of laughter, but I can only throw him a confused look in return.
“That’s a bass, son!” he hollers, shaking his head in disbelief, “And it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”
I’d thought bass fishing was going to be boring. Oh, how wrong I was.