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Pete Weighs In - A Blog

By Pete Robbins

650 Reasons to Get One

July 29, 2009

Skeet Reese won the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.  Since then, he’s earned a check in all seven Elite Series events, never finishing lower than 29th. Last week Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game – last night he failed to add a second one, but he got close enough that he set a major league record by retiring 45 consecutive batters over the two games.

What do they have in common? They both drive Ford F650 pickups. If you’re driving a Prius and want to improve your performance, maybe it’s time to trade up.

Quote of the Day

July 24, 2009

"At the outset, the fact should be recognized that the community of fishermen constitutes a separete class or sub-race among the inhabitants of the earth."

--Grover Cleveland, 22nd President of the United States

Losin' It

July 20, 2009

Do you remember your first?

When you first started off fishing, each day on the water and each catch provided a certain novel thrill. First Carolina rig fish, first on a deep diving crankbait, first time you "ran the tide" successfully, etc.

Even though I've become a little jaded, I'm seeing all of that through my red headed wife's eyes right now. As reported in this space last week, she recently caught her first fish punching mats. It was also her first five-pounder. A one-fish, double decker achievement.

But as you get more experienced, by definition there are fewer of those "firsts."

On Saturday, my wife had two new firsts -- first chatterbait fish and first (and second and third and fourth) fish on a toad-style bait. It was also the first time that she started to put together a pattern. At one point she said, "We only seem to be getting bit on the outside edge of the grass. Let's move out a bit."

But I had a new experience of my own when I caught the snakehead pictured in this photo. For the serious Potomac rats, it's probably old hat by now, but for me the strike was still a thrill. The aftermath, on the other hand, was less than pleasant. Let's just say that, per the applicable law, he's in a "better place" now, although I'm not sure he would agree.

I just wanted my frog back.

A Fan's Notes

July 17, 2009

My life, reduced, is probably the sum of a lot of ragged post-its. I write on them constantly and then can’t remember what they’re about – passwords for unknown websites, phone numbers for people and companies who I may not call back and other pieces of information like dentist appointments, meeting times and the addresses of hotels I stayed at two years ago and will never stay at again.

It’s a reality reduced to its most essential components, some of which have apparently ceased to be essential.

Eventually the post-its lose their stickyness, the glue strips covered with fine dust and other unmentionables, and I sort through them, throwing away those that clearly have no value, relegating those that may have some value (however uncertain) to a pile in a drawer and possible re-transcribing those that have clear value onto new, still-sticky post-its.

The corollary to this character flaw is that I save lots of paper of all sizes. There are notes from interviews I conducted last week, where the article hasn’t published yet and I want to make sure that I haven’t missed anything critical. There are notes from interviews I conducted months or even years ago that I perpetually vow to turn into an article, but have not yet done so. But most of all there are articles that others wrote or recommended, published in magazines and newspapers that I comb through on a daily basis. I may save them to share with someone else (although I question why that’s necessary given the cut and paste capabilities of my computer), but more often than not it’s because there’s a particular line, or a particular concept, that speaks to me and that I’ll use to remind me of something that I want to write about.

Moving up the grand scale of paper products, there are also books that I refer to on occasion and use as inspiration. But this presents a different problem – how to remember the relevant parts. If there’s just a single line that I like, can I write it on a sheet of paper and add that sheet to the stacks that weigh down my desk? Possible, but not likely. Lately I’ve started carrying a highlighter with me as I read, but this presents problems of its own. First, the book has to belong to you. There’s nothing worse than loaning out a book and getting it back with sections that someone else thought were important highlighted. Similarly, libraries tend to frown on the desecration of their property. Second, you have to make sure that you use a highlighter that doesn’t bleed through the page. Otherwise, upon rereadings, you may wonder whether you intended to highlight, for example, page 123, page 124, or the mirror images of both. Furthermore, it creates a whole new set of concerns about whether you should loan out your now-highlighted books to friends and acquaintances. Will they laugh at the fact that I’m goofy enough to write notes in the margins and carry a yellow marking pen with me during my recreational reading? Even if they don’t, will they be horrified by the fact that of all the words in these tomes I’ve chosen to focus on only the most obvious, the most insipid, and that I’ve missed the point of the piece entirely? Will I end up highlighting passages just to show that I get it, but that don’t really have any significance to my personal endeavors? Does a highlighter provide a little too much of a window into the shallowness of my mind?

What does all of this have to do with fishing, you may ask? Why do I care about how messy your desk is or the narcissistic ways that you use various writing implements? Good questions. But if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that it’s not always a direct reflection of my on-the-water efforts or the state of the fishing industry. I’d like to think that it goes beyond that, that it’s deeper in some respect – you may laugh at that concept. You may want to skip back to pictures of fish and descriptions of new baits. That’s your prerogative. But one of the ways that I think this blog is valuable to the average bass reader is that it’s not your conventional fish info. I try to recommend not just baits, but also books and websites that may have nothing to do with fishing, but if I like them there’s a chance you will, too – all without any corporate interference or agenda, save for the looming but unseen iron glove of Gary Yamamoto.

So this all comes full-circle because in cleaning out my master stack of reference articles that struck my fancy, I found no fewer than three pieces by Doug Glanville, published in the Small-A august New York Times (which in a matter of weeks will become the Small-A, Large-A august August New York Times).

I’ve never met Glanville, but there are some overlaps in our lives which likely mean that we’re separated by no more than a few degrees. I was raised in a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC, while Glanville (no relation to Jerry Glanville, I assume) was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, which, truth be told, is probably pretty similar to my hometown. We were born six months apart. We went to rival colleges at the same time. In fact, one of the girls who lived down the hall from me my freshman year of college had been President of the Senior Class at Teaneck High, Doug’s alma mater (channeling my inner Sarah Palin, “can I call ya Doug?”), so that’s a likely link right there.

But after that our paths diverged, even though, in the most formal sense they’d never really crossed.

He went on to be drafted into professional baseball, and played for nearly a decade at the major league level with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers. I went to law school.

In 1999, he hit .325 for the Phillies. In 1999, I expensed 22 summer associate lunches to the law firm I hated while working the minimum number of hours required not to get fired while still being able to fish just about every weekend.

I walked away from a horrible six years at the firm in 2001, not asked to leave, but not a vital part of the operation, either, and went to work in a legal position that on most days I really like, at least as much as it’s possible to like a job that has the occasional drudgery of just about any job. In 2005, Glanville walked away from baseball, leaving a minor league contract on the table, ready to get on with the next step of his life, too. No one explicitly pushed us out, but in both cases it was time to go.  But what do you do when you leave the position that everyone’s told you you’ve been training for your whole life, whether you liked it or not? What fills that void of being needed, of being on a path to something big?

Oddly enough, this is where my path and Glanville’s path converge again. We both found that greater purpose in our writing. He writes an occasional column for the NYT called “Heading Home” http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/doug_glanville/index.html. I write for BassZone, Wired2Fish, Bassmaster and of course Inside Line, among others. Not quite the same as the “paper of record,” but for once in my life there’s no feeling of inferiority just because someone with a similar background resides in a position of more prestige. Certainly his columns in the NYT have given him broader exposure (and apparently a book deal, too, as his website states), but I don’t know that they’ve given him more satisfaction . . . nor has he gotten to fish with Kevin VanDam or Denny Brauer as a result, or received not-yet-on-the-market tackle to test.

Regardless of the adulation, respect or material gains deriving from our written product, for both of us our writing has allowed us to use a topic of interest (in his case baseball; in mine, fishing) to expound on broader issues. That’s what I love about writing this blog, and why I keep coming back to it, despite the fact that my other columns may be more widely read and are certainly more profitable. Glanville uses baseball as his prism onto more general human issues and I hope that this space allows fishing to do the same for me.

I’m still saving a number of quotations from his columns for future entries, but I feel that I must share portions of his recent piece titled “My Father’s Words” in which he described how his late father, a psychiatrist, wrote poetry. My (still-alive) father, also a psychiatrist, has similarly found an avocation in writing extensively about Asian art.

Glanville writes about being lost when he first emerged from baseball, but says: “I didn’t stay lost forever. I found something that I wasn’t looking for: a voice through writing. Only later did I understand that this would be a bridge to understanding my father in another way. A way that led me to connect to a passion I didn’t realize we both shared.” Talk about hitting the nail on the head. I only wish that I could have written those same words. Fathers and sons play catch together. They go fishing together. But I don’t know of any who write together. It is, for me at least (and I assume for others) such a solitary pursuit that it doesn’t lead us to interact directly with one another in the process of creation, but it can connect us nonetheless.

Doug, you’re welcome in my boat any day.

Mat Flippin' Mama

July 12, 2009

If you asked me to describe my red-headed wife in three words, “persistent” would definitely be one of them (based on the rest of this sentence, it appears that “red” and “headed” would be the other two). After all, how do you think she lured in a prince of a guy like yours truly, despite my numerous female suitors, and got me to commit to matrimony where those others had failed before her?

As we entered into a relationship late in 2003, there was one notable gap on her resume – she had never fished before. (The initial draft of this blog entry said “She had never held a rod before,” but I figured that the more uncouth among you – this means you, Teague – would have a field day with that line). But she took to the sport like – well, for lack of a better cliché, like a fish to water. She wasn’t necessarily immediately proficient, and there were some frustrating moments, but she has come a long way in her on-the-water skills.

[If she were standing over my shoulder while I typed, as she often does, she would now interject that not only is she a decent angler, but she also knows a lot about the sport. "Tell them about the time you called me while covering a BASS event at Smith Mountain,” she would instruct (if only I had four words to describe her – “authoritarian” might make the cut). “You told me that Kelly Jordon was leading the tournament, and I said ‘Well that makes sense because he’s a great sight fisherman. And also tell them that I know that the second vowel in ‘Jordon’ is an ‘o,’ not an ‘a,’ as so many outdoor writers commonly write it.”]

While she was able to pick up on certain techniques, like dropshotting and chunking a spinnerbait, relatively quickly, others have evaded her grasp. A prime example of that is frogging. She’s only landed one fish on a frog in her short angling career, and seems to farm out a few nearly every trip. Another technique that she had trouble getting a handle on is flipping mats. I myself have only been doing it for a few years, and I know that it’s tiring work. Furthermore, while she’s been in the boat when I’ve landed mat fish, it’s not an easy bite to describe. Unfortunately for her, at times those two techniques make up my one-two punch of the Potomac. But again, despite numerous heartbreaks she hasn’t given up.

We went out on the river on Saturday, fishing an area I normally don’t spend too much time on (the primary motivation was that it’s the ramp nearest to our house). We started on a small grassbed where I’d done well a few years back and she quickly had one blow up on her frog and miss. In short order, I landed two keepers, but then as eight-billion BFL boats went by, and another two-billion stopped and joined us on this community hole, the bite died off.

We piddled around for about another hour and a half without catching anything before we started flipping mats. On the first decent mat we pulled up to, I caught three keepers in less than 5 minutes. Now she was getting perturbed (that might be a candidate for the fifth word to describe her) and was semi-vocal about making her displeasure known.

I put my flipping stick down and let her have first shot at the next few mats we saw. No bites. Further vitriol from the wife, whose fiery temper occasionally matches her hair color. But then a strange thing happened. As we both flipped to a large mat, she set the hook and started reeling like a maniac. Even with a heavy-action flipping stick, she was having trouble with the concept of bringing all of the salad up into the boat. Frankly, I figured she was just hung up. But then I saw a tail flap. I trolling motored into the mat, reached down and scooped up a brilliant green two-pounder. First mat fish in the book.

“Do you want to take a picture of it?” I asked, now realizing that I had forgotten the camera. She declined, gently released the fish, and went back to flipping.

Not even five minutes later, she struck again, this time with a fierce hookset and used the rod more like a fulcrum to get the fish moving through the vegetation. When it came to the edge of the matted grass, I saw it was a good one.

“Oh my,” she said.

“Please don’t get off,” I thought.

She expertly guided the fish over to the front deck where I lipped it. Second mat fish. Her first five-pounder. Despite my failure to remember the camera, we’re fortunate that our phones can now take pictures. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have had that option. So we put the fish in the livewell for a short while so we could get in a better place to snap a photo.

Once the big fish was safely ensconced in the well, she put down her flipping stick and jumped up and down like a little kid. I don’t remember the last time I was that excited over a fish. It was awesome – I wish I could bottle that feeling her exuberance over putting it all together and sell it. It’d probably fetch a million bucks, but I think I’d be a greedy SOB and keep it all for myself.

I don’t think she’s Denny Brauer quite yet (although, as you can see from the photo, she has her name on a tournament shirt, which makes her every bit as qualified as most of the goobers who offer fishing advice on the internet), but in the interest of journalistic integrity and good spousal relations, I will list the tackle she used to subdue the beast.

Rod: Power Tackle PG105-76, 7’6” heavy action

Reel: Shimano Castaic (old-style)

Line: 65-pound test Power Pro Braid (moss green)

Bait: Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog color #301 (watermelon with black and small gold)

Hook: 4/0 Owner TwistLock

Weight: 1 ¼ ounce Tru-Tungsten Denny Brauer Flipping Weight (watermelon)(secured with a Bass Pro Shops bobber stop).

They Said It

July 8, 2009

In case you don’t read Bass Zone (www.basszone.com) or the PAA website (www.fishpaa.com), and you REALLY should, I thought I’d pass along a couple of amusing quotes from articles I wrote this week:

“Smallmouths, I don’t like ‘em, They’re ugly. They’re slimy. They’re small and they don’t fight well. I don’t buy into the hype. I call them ‘novelty bass.’" --Kelly Jordon

“You can’t count him out if you’re shooting marbles or picking boogers.” --Andy Morgan on KVD

I'm Not Aware of Too Many Things

June 29, 2009

[a blog entry where I will try to write about nothing fishing-related – skip it if you must]