You can’t swing a dead cat around the TV dial these days without landing on a show with a “best of” or “Survivor” theme. We’ve seen not only “American Idol,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “America’s Got Talent,” but also “The Biggest Loser,” “Chopped” and of course “Flavor of Love.”
Whether the final line is “The Tribe has spoken” or “You’re Fired,” there’s something to fit everyone’s semi-reality television taste. Of course, outdoorsmen (including bass anglers) are not exempt from this trend – three time B.A.S.S. winner Stephen Browning, who also won the 1996 Red Man All American – added to his trophy case (and his bank account) over a decade ago when he won ESPN’s “The Wild Rules,” a Survivor-type show which tested contestants’ various outdoors skills.
I think it’s high time that we get another one focused on us, but rather than a competition series focused on best ability to back a trailer, skip a jig under overhanging limbs, or drive a bass boat in a raging tail race, I have a much simpler (and more practical) suggestion: “America’s Greatest Fishing Gas Station.”
If you tow a bass boat regionally or nationally, you know that not all gas stations are the same, and as a convenience store addict and self-proclaimed guru I have strong opinions about what form the station closest to the lake should take.
Before we get into the business end of the station – the actual reason you’re there, gasoline – it’s important to talk about the window dressing. They should have decent sandwiches, both for breakfast and for lunch (tacos are a bonus, especially in Texas), and not just the spongy white bread in a peel-off plastic triangle abominations. They should have bags of ice, in multiple sizes, and not at prices that indicate that they believe they developed the recipe on their own. For some people, high test coffee (for the morning) and super-cool beer (for the evening) are absolute necessities, but I’m willing to trade those out for ultra-clean toilets and full soap and paper towel dispensers. A decade ago, I might’ve said that a good supply of local baits is also a deal-sealing attribute, but like quality beef jerky, it’s one that I can let slide these days. Everything else, from doughnuts to Cheerwine, is just a bonus.
All of the consumables don't mean a thing, though, if there’s no place to put your rig. As important as your sammiches may be, if you can’t get there, you can’t buy ‘em. Therefore, the layout of the station matters more than just about anything. I understand that some urban and suburban stations may have limited space to work with, but even those that have seemingly endless room often make it a chore to get in and out without knocking off a fender. The perfect station should allow you to pull straight in and have front-and-back pumps that enable you to gas up your boat and tow vehicle at the same time. It would have ample room both in front and in back of the pumps so that someone filling up doesn’t block the entrance or exit from the station, and also so that you have adequate room to move around when things are hopping. There should also be space elsewhere on the lot so that when you’re done gassing up you can pull aside, get out of the way for the next angler and go inside and get your grub on.
While diesel for tow vehicles that run on it is an absolute requirement, extra points will be given for stations that offer ethanol-free go-juice to keep our fuel lines intact. The pumps should have an endless supply of paper and a quality printer so that those of us who need gas receipts never have to wait in line at the cashier to get one.
I’d watch this show. Hell, I’d even drive out of my way to patronize the winners, in the hopes that stations in other fishing towns would emulate their best characteristics. We could have Byron Velvick host. As far as I’m concerned, the final choice would indeed be the most dramatic rose ceremony ever.