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Pete Weighs In - A Blog

By Pete Robbins


February 23, 2009

Other than whacking on little brown and green fish, one of my favorite aspects of my semi-chosen bass fishing obsession is that I get to experience a lot of regional oddities, sights, cuisine and sayings. Whether it's calling a fish a gasper goo (freshwater drum) or traveling to Louisiana where they'll fry anything from Twinkies to shoe leather and put it on the menu, I revel in those little bits of Americana.
When it comes down to it, I think the folks in Alabama have the rest of us beat on the regional quirk scale, and here's a perfect example: After the first day of fishing this past week at Falcon, my Birmingham-based friend Lee Byrd got a call from one of his bass club friends.
The first word (words?) out of the dude's mouth was "Cantycant."
Even Lee, a product of the south, had no idea what he meant, so he asked his friend to explain.
"Cantycant?" he said again, this time with an inflection that suggested it was a question.
"What the $#@% are you talking about?" Lee asked.
"Cantycant?" came the reply.  "Did you fish today from when you can until when you can't?" 
Just another way of asking if we'd started early and stayed late. Gotta incorporate that one into my repertoire.

String Stretchers

February 20, 2009

There's not much going on in Zapata, Texas, except big mean bass and breakfast tacos. But if you love to fish and don't make a trip there in your lifetime, you've let yourself down.  My friend Lee Byrd tells me that pound for pound an Alabama River spotted bass is stronger, but these Falcon fish just flat out pull. 
The proof is in the picture (and by local standards this ain't even considered a grown one).
When it comes to accomodations, I'm something of a wuss. I like my creature comforts, eight billion cable channels, all that -- but I'm being 100% honest when I say that if I could retire tomorrow, I'd get a motor home or trailer, park it in the immediate vicinity of Falcon, and live there from October to April, possibly even longer.

Choice Quote

February 16, 2009

"What do you mean ‘the fishing offseason’?"
--Clark Reehm

Drain Bamage

February 12, 2009

This is a short story worthy of a Jeff Foxworthy joke: “You might be a fisherman if….”

I was going through one of the popular bass fishing message boards today when I saw a post entitled “Blackberry Pearl.”  I figured someone was inquiring about a new soft plastic custom color, which immediately got my interest revved up.  I opened the post only to be disappointed to find it was a question about the Blackberry mobile communication device. 

A lot less interesting, if you ask me.

Choice Quote

February 10, 2009

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft."
--President Theodore Roosevelt

The Turd in the Punchbowl

February 6, 2009

I don’t expect every professional angler to be interested in being my friend. I know that most of them will want to talk to me, or at least agree to talk to me, simply because I can get them good press at Wired2Fish, Bass Zone, Inside Line or one of the various print publications I write for.

Over ninety percent of them, most of whom have no idea who I am, are more than cordial. They’re helpful, giving of their time and truly work hard to help me produce a quality product. Again, I don’t kid myself – if I couldn’t give them media exposure, I don’t expect they’d welcome my calls so readily. That’s not a knock on them. It’s just that they tend to be busy people, trying to make mortgage payments and pay for their kids to go to college just like everybody else. It’s a business transaction, and while many of us have some co-workers who we socialize with outside of the workplace, there are typically more people who we just tolerate or coexist with.

So of that large proportion of pros who are friendly, I can think of a handful with whom I’d probably still have a friendship with even if I couldn’t help them get some ink. At the other end of that bell curve, there’s the handful who are just nasty, spiteful people.

There’s one pro in particular who I’m fed up with (No, I won’t name him. Don’t ask.). He’s a very competent angler, with a long list of accomplishments and he’s generally regarded as a nice guy, but he has been nothing but a pain in the ass the three or four times I’ve worked with him. Long before I ever approached him for an interview, Terry Battisti warned me about his antics. Terry had to call him for a BassFan article the evening after “Joe the Pro” had had a terrible tournament day. Terry barely got an introduction out before the guy just ripped into him. While I trust Terry’s assessments completely, I figured that perhaps the bad experience was an anomaly, completely the result of “Joe’s” missed opportunity on the water.

So when I had an assignment that required me to call him, I went into it with an open mind. We played phone tag for a while, mostly owing to the fact that every time I got through to him he’d say that he’d call me back or that I should call him again at a particular time. He was never available at those given times. When he finally called me back over a week later, he prefaced the conversation with, “We’ve gotta keep this short. I can’t talk much today.” When we completed the  interview in record time, due largely to his terse, one and two-word answers, I asked if he would offer some information for another article and he replied, “I think I’ve given you enough.”

Again, I consider myself the type of person who keeps and open mind and tries to give people the benefit of the doubt, so when I had to call him again this past December, I figured I’d go in with a clean slate. Left him a message, never heard back. In January, I had some free time one Monday evening so I tried him again, got the voicemail, decided not to leave a message.

Then on Tuesday, my phone rang and his number showed up on the caller ID. “Aha! Finally a chance to ask some questions,” I thought. When I picked up the phone, I could barely answer before he blurted out, “I have a missed call from this number from yesterday.” I explained the situation and with venom in his voice he asked, “How long is this going to take?” I told him 10 minutes. “I’m just about to go into the post office. I’ll call you when I get out,” he said, clearly never intending to call me back. It’s three weeks later, no call. I guess I’m on his personal do-not-call list.

There are several things that strike me as curious about this situation:

I’m not inclined to call him or write about him whenever my article topic is elective (except for this blog post). I suppose at some point I’ll be covering a tournament where he does well and I’ll be forced to work with him again. Stay tuned . . .

Choice Quote

February 4, 2009

"Three generations of imbeciles are enough."
--Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Choice Quote

February 2, 2009

"He’s luckier than a dog with two tongues."

Ho-tel, Mo-tel, Holiday Inn

January 31, 2009

The first time we fished Toledo Bend, my friend and I called longtime pro David Wharton to find out where to stay. David was an east Texas native who had also spent some time living in Louisiana, so we figured he’d be able to recommend the best place in terms of access, affordability and lack of scary critters in the rooms.

We read David the list of the accommodations BASS had recommended in the registration packet – a list that included fish camps, cabins and other places that sounded like the anti-Four Seasons. He hadn’t heard of any of them -- not a good sign. My goal was to leave the state of Louisiana when the tournament was over, not end up as part of a Natchitoches meat pie. David’s last words of advice were – “Be careful where you stay. Around that lake, some of the places can be a bit rustic.”

Somehow I have a feeling that rustic near Many, Louisiana and Hemphill, Texas means something stronger than it does around my neck of the woods. For the record, we ended up staying at the Super 8 on the Texas side by the Pendleton Bridge, which was great, but like anyone who has fished tournaments in multiple states for well over a decade, I’ve experienced my share of filth, squalor and – to use a euphemism – rustic conditions.

There was the hotel in Ahoskie, NC, where some of the local females were kind enough to knock on our doors to see if we wanted dates – at a price. There have been more than a few buggy encounters, none yet with bedbugs, knock wood, but I assume that day is coming. There was the place near Lake Gaston where I couldn’t enter the lobby because of the overpowering smell of curry. At the James River, friends and I went to gas up at 4am on tournament day at the station next to our hotel and broke up a hold-up in progress.

Those are all bad, but the worst accommodation I may have ever paid hard-earned money for was in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. After we took the bar exam in the summer of 1995, two friends and I spent a month traveling around the big state, camping out in a tent in campgrounds, on the side of the road or in people’s back yards all but a handful of nights. Those nights included: the final night in Anchorage, when we decided to get a hotel room so they wouldn’t have to evacuate our flights due to stank; a night in Fairbanks when an Athabascan dude allowed us to crash on his living room floor; a night in Chicken, Alaska (the sign greeting you into town says “Welcome to Chicken: Home of 37 people and one old grump”) when it was pouring when we left the bar so rather than set up a tent in a mud puddle we elected to stay in our rented Chrysler Concorde; and the night in Wrangell.

According to Wikipedia, Wrangell is the largest designated wilderness area in the United States (and the largest national park by area), but there ain’t much to it in terms of civilization. By the time we got there, we’d been to Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, Tok, Chicken and Dawson City (in the Yukon) – more towns than showers, so we were pretty ripe, and my friend Matt had developed some sort of nasty cold. About 30 miles into the park, our rental car met up with a railroad spike and got a flat.  We put on the donut spare and limped forward, hoping to find a place to set up camp and get our lives in order. Fortunately, we found a small hunting lodge run by an elderly couple. We bought some hamburgers and tried to assess our next steps. As we chatted with them, we learned that: (1) the woman had not been out of the park in over 20 years; (2) the man had a tire repair kit (he helped us repair it and we rode it another 1,000-plus miles, through Homer, Seward and various other stops, until we returned the rental); and (3) they’d rent us a portion of a trailer for $25 a night. So we ponied up $8.33 apiece and rented a third of their trailer for the evening – shelter and heat that probably saved Matt’s life, or at least our vacation – a week later he was content living in a tent, drinking cheap beer and eating silver salmon cooked on the open fire (we’d run out of money, but not Pixy spooks) like the rest of us.

The point of this all is that I think that I, like most traveling fishermen, don’t take my hotel accommodations for granted. I don’t need something particularly fancy, just a clean and safe place to rest my head, with good boat parking and electrical hookups – barely over the prison standard of “three hots and a cot.” I’m there for the activity, not room service. The Weather Channel is more important than the availability of a fitness center. But I do take great pleasure when I go on a non-fishing vacation in staying somewhere that’s a cut above that lowly standard. That’s why I was so pleased on the recent Mexico vacation I took with the redheaded wife that we stayed someplace really nice – a hotel room with an in-room Jacuzzi, 42” flat-screen TV, shower for two, fully-stocked (and included in the price) mini-bar.

The TV had 54 channels, about half of them in Spanish, a few devoted to soccer (non-American futbol), one to golf, and a couple for CNN, Fox News, etc. Being an adults-only hotel, two of the uppermost channels were 24/7 “adult-entertainment.” I swear honey, I just passed through them on the way to National Geographic, didn’t stop for a second.

The room had an open structure – and by that I mean that there was a ledge behind the bed’s headboard that passed through to the sinks and vanities. Behind that was the toilet, in a small room of it’s own, behind a frosted glass door, ringed in clear glass. Some people might not like that so much – it exposed your partner to the sounds and smells of your daily rituals (fortunately, we did not suffer from Montezuma’s revenge, so they didn’t become unnecessarily frequent), but I liked it, because it meant that if you craned your head just right, you could watch TV through the clear border glass while taking care of business. How’s that for decadence? You could also watch the tube from the Jacuzzi. So whether you wanted to watch “My Dog Skip” in Spanish or something by Jenna Jameson (in English, although to be honest it wouldn’t really matter), the room gave you full 360 degree access.

I’m headed to Falcon Lake next Friday for five days of fishing right before the Bassmaster Classic, staying at a clean place with decent boat parking that we discovered last year. Fortunately, there’s no Jacuzzi and the toilet is behind a solid door. That’s a good thing – if you transported our Cancun room out there, I might never make it out on the lake.

A Choice Quote

January 29, 2009

"You’ve got to find some way of saying it without saying it."
--Duke Ellington

Follow Up

January 28, 2009

I have to give credit where credit is due to the folks at Biosonix.

Shortly after my blog went up yesterday, I heard from one company rep with a “state of the company” explanation.  Then this morning I got another email from the company’s Wes Higgins which provided me with more information and some recent examples of press the company has received, along with endorsements from their sponsored anglers.  So I may have missed the boat when I all but implied that the device has fallen off the radar in the past couple of years.

I don’t know that they answered all of my questions, but I appreciate their quick response and their willingness to open a dialogue.  In my responses, I emphasized that I wasn’t picking on the product (I have no idea whether it works or not), I just queried why the endorsements had faded.  Wes pointed out that the past three AOYs (KVD, Skeet and Ike) have all credited Biosonix for contributing to those titles.  I would submit that those guys, all of whom could catch fish in a parking lot mud puddle, probably don’t need the help, but the fact is that at the Elite level of competition, any additional advantage, even if it’s just additional confidence, is necessary to separate yourself from the hundred-plus other anglers who want to drain your livewell, slit your throat and steal your girlfriend.

Again, Biosonix is just an apparent example of a more general phenomenon – anglers touting a product one day and seemingly forgetting about it the next.  The question in my mind is who really believes in their sponsors’ products?  When I see guys who jump from one company to the competition and back, it undermines any hope that I’ll perceive them as sincere.  In that light, I was pretty impressed when Jay Yelas described the reasons he moved to Ranger from Skeeter after two decades: pure business – and his open letter of thanks to Skeeter for their longstanding support.  Same with Mark Davis when he made the jump from BassCat to Skeeter a few years back – handled it with class. 

And while I understand that some of the pros who have been with three or more boat companies over the course of their career have done it to feed their families and pay their mortgages, each time they say that their new sponsor has the ultimate ride it makes their past statements seem like a lie.  It reminds me of George Carlin’s line: “If every new product is new and improved, does that mean the previous ones were old and crappy?”

Sometimes I’m too quick to judge. On the other hand, my early impressions are often right – time will tell which endorsements mean anything and which are snake oil.

Can You Hear Me Now?

January 27, 2009

What happened to Biosonix?

Just two years ago, the pros were declaring it the most important fishing innovation since the plastic worm and Vienna sausages. Now you don’t hear squat about it.

The same guys who lauded it then are still winning the big derbies, which leads me to believe one of several things:

Decide for yourself which is most likely.

I’m not casting doubt on the product’s effectiveness. I haven’t been around one enough to know whether it improves catches or not, but why the sudden silence from its biggest supporters? If indeed the reason for the blackout is the sudden stoppage of payment, why should I buy anything they tout?

It never struck me as a particularly marketable item, at least not at six hundred bucks retail, for something with an indeterminate value on the water – something like a Power Pole or a side-imaging sonar has more immediately apparent benefits -- but then again five years ago I would’ve laughed at anyone who paid six bucks for a tungsten worm weight. Now I have a box of ‘em so what do I know?

Anyone able to tell me what happened?