A Fish Tale

Henry relaxing on his rock

At six-thirty on a recent morning, a time when most sane people are still sleeping, especially if they are at a cottage, I was jarred awake by what sounded like the start of a Formula One race. This is what it’s like on bass derby day. I have never been at the marina when the boats get the go ahead to go forth and fish (see ridiculous hour above), but I imagine a guy in a black and white referee jersey and a big fat whistle, signaling that the games have begun. I only know what happens after that, which is that boats laden with various implements known to be irresistible to bass, holding two guys wearing baseball caps (hats are probably also irresistible to bass), zoom to their preferred spot on the lake with the objective of getting there before somebody else does. Apparently, this is fun and, as I have learned, can be lucrative.   

I recently (accidentally) discovered the world of Major League Fishing. MLF (as those in the know like to call it) is a real thing. A thing that you can perhaps win millions of dollars doing if you are a man, a fisherman, a fisherman in the U.S., and in particular, a bass fisherman. Much like the major league baseball championship is called the ‘World’ series (and by the way, the story that it’s because a newspaper called ‘The World’ sponsored the playoffs back in the day is not true), there is in fact a World Championship for bass fishing, held of course in the centre of the world and universe otherwise known as the U.S.

I would not know this if I hadn’t happened to be in Natchez, Mississippi a while ago. I was staying in one of the fine accommodation options in Natchez, the Magnolia Bluffs Hotel and Casino.  Luckily, the casino was not actually in the hotel but down by the river. Unluckily, this was the official hotel of the MLF elimination round competition for the prestigious Lucas Oil Challenge Cup (I swear I am not making this up). 

When you are an MLF guy, you have serious gear. It appears you haul your (immaculate and heavily logo encrusted) boat around from place to place via your (equally immaculate and also heavily logo encrusted) Ford F750 truck. Or maybe, you have peeps that drive the boat to the next competition location and you show up at your leisure. While the ‘anglers’ (which is apparently what you call fancy fishermen) are ferried by private planes to obscure places in Mississippi, their crew sets up a massive tailgate (tailboat?) party in the back lot of the local hotel. I am pretty sure that in between Busch beers (official beer sponsor), they talked about the ones that got away.

One advantage I can see of MLF versus other ‘MLs’ (like for instance hockey, basketball or baseball) is that the uniform pretty much consists of the requisite ball hat, jeans, and a t-shirt (all appropriately MLF branded).  No need for bespoke suits for travel days or major bling or Kardashian-style trophy wives, but maybe their definition of trophy wife might be a little different. Like for example, that she can gut a fish with her eyes closed and is always happy when her MLF star brings home a new trophy.

I don’t think any bass fishermen have ever actually eaten a bass. Or if they have, it was only once because bass tastes like what you get if you remove the b, so I am at a loss to explain the bass fishing phenomenon. Let’s just add that to the list of other things I am at a loss to explain, like how you can make literally boatloads of money these days doing stuff that appears to have no relationship to anything that would move civilization even the tiniest bit forward.   

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