Bassin’ with a Diarist

“Wayne called to see if you could go fishing,” my wife said sweetly, before switching to a more reproving tone. “You’re not going though.”

“What are you talking about?” I replied.

“Last time you didn’t get home until midnight.”

The terse exchange reminded me that bass fishing with Wayne means showing up after pillow talk time and smelling like fish, conduct that does not bode well in my household. As partial explanation, Wayne’s schedule is dictated by what’s contained in his bass diary. And according to years and years of data, action doesn’t usually get fast and furious until dusk approaches. “Bass like to load up on food before it gets dark,” he says. “They don’t eat again until the next morning, after which they digest until light begins to fade.”

As a consequence of this well-documented behavior, Wayne doesn’t start fishing until early afternoon, which suits me fine because I am not a morning person. However, whether due to my attention deficit or a life-long proclivity for trout, I’m ready to go home after half a dozen bass. But it never works out that way because for Wayne bass fishing is more than an avocation. It’s an obsession. If fishing is slow, he is driven to stay on the water until he figures out why. If fishing is good, he can’t stop casting until the bite is off. His idea of a romantic dinner is a dried-out sandwich eaten by the light of the setting sun. I take that back. Bass might still be biting. Dinner is consumed in the dark; by the side of the road. After the boat is secured on the trailer.

Some days I think Wayne would toss jigs with the aid of a headlamp if he thought doing so would lead to one more bass in his diary. Which leads to the next topic, how many data points on a personal chart of when, where and how does a person need?

I was too interested in catching a bass of my own to pay attention to Wayne’s consummate record keeping the first time we fished together. I did notice, however, that he did most of the catching and I did most of the netting. I don’t mind being the net man. It’s a worthwhile skill to hone. There are days however, when you sense manipulation by your fishing partner. How many “great net job!” comments do you need to hear before you sense that you suck?

The most impressive part of Wayne’s approach is record keeping. He writes down pertinent facts about every bass brought to the side of the boat: location, size of fish, lure, time of day, troll speed, river discharge, weather. You could say he is particular in a very organized way. After watching him write facts on scraps of paper stored in a zip-lock bag, I got the bright idea of plunking down $15.50 for a hardbound “Rite in the Rain” notebook as a gift between friends. I figured he was worth it given all the soft baits I had “borrowed” over the years. Imagine my surprise when he ripped pages out of the notebook to scribble on. It seems old habits are hard to break.

I am obligated to mention, however, I caught the first two bass when Wayne took me fishing in early November last year, something that has never happened before. He offered me a choice of big-lip, crawfish-colored plugs neatly lined up in his 50-gallon-size tackle box, but I tied on one of my own, a gaudy chartreuse-and-orange plug I found floating down the river a year or so back. I couldn’t help notice him scrambling to find something similar after he netted my second 3 lb smallie. Unfortunately, his diary showed that he caught up and passed me in total fish landed (i.e., 13 to 12) by the end of the day.

But “hey!” who’s counting? (Wayne, that’s who!)