You don’t develop a physique like this one without downing a few pounds of Cheeto dust. Fortunately, I hang around enough foodie types that not all of my indulgences are so lowbrow. I’ve made the rounds of Manhattan, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New Orleans and other eating meccas. I’m on good terms with Wagyu beef, churrascaria and all kinds of Thai chiles. I once ate a 31 course meal from Chef Jose Andres that included a serving of “lime air.”
One of the highlights of the annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame dinner is the chance to bid on items that are – as they used to say on TV – “not sold in any store.” Yes, there are screaming deals to be had on jackplates and flipping sticks and raingear, but typically the highlights of the auction are the trips with famous anglers to incredible places.
Drummer Ginger Baker, best known for his work with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in Cream, died over the weekend. He was, by all accounts, a combative, ornery, substance-addicted, mean-spirted sonofabitch. There was no question that he was talented, but his battles with band members and other drummers alike, along with multiple wives, reinforced just how hard he was to deal with.
While the biggest payara were caught on live and cut bait, during our recent trip to the Amazon many of the large wolf fish came on crankbaits. Toward the end of the week a few members of the group managed to catch some good ones on big squarebills in the rapids and eddies, overall the best bait was one that the lodge gave us, an oversized deep diver from Argentina. We caught fish with it casting to sandbars and deep rock outcroppings and occasionally trolling it over expansive flats.
Fishing live bait or cut bait sometimes gets a bad rap (including from otherwise-informed outdoor writers). The frequent perception is that all it involves is a cricket under a cork, or a freelined shiner, and that it’s the next best thing to cheating. I’ve never gone that far, but I’ve been shamed as a friend and I flipped up a bunch of one- and two-pounders on an Okeechobee bank, and then found out that an anchored shiner guide on that same bank had already caught five fish over six pounds.
I fished local and regional tournaments for nearly 20 years, and I always thought it was the solitary nature of the sport that appealed to me. While I typically had a partner or another competitor in the boat with me, much of the work was done solo. Even when we were fishing it wasn’t a social hour and the heavy talkers quickly got a taste of either me ignoring them or – in extreme cases – a heavy dose of STFU. As a confirmed introvert, someone who’s happy to spend long hours in the boat by himself and recoils every time the phone rings, that was my idea of heaven.
I’ve spilled a lot of ink, and spent lots of pixels, criticizing the exponential proliferation of dye-sublimated fishing jerseys. While they have valid uses among pros, non-pros and even non-anglers, the problem is that when everyone wears one all the time, their value becomes diluted and they eventually turn into a parody of themselves.
I’ve now been to Brazil four times – once to Rio when I was a teenager, and three times into two different sections of the Amazon Basin over the past decade. This last trip into the Mato Grosso state was by far the most remote. We were a 2 ½ hour plane ride (to a dirt landing strip) away from the city of Manaus.