It’s always annoying when a perfectly good fishing trip seems to digress into one problem after another, where nothing seems to go right. However, I’ve also (kind of) learned that these same irritating preludes can be just the thing that makes these crazy oddball excursions special, and I began calling them my … “best worst trips!”
Back in the early ’80s, a fishing buddy and I decided to fish the spring bass bite at Hensley Lake on my birthday. Heading out early, we were about 10 miles from the lake when the left trailer tire went flat, completely shredded! There were no spares.
I was upset, it was going to take a lot of time to find, replace and fix this kind of tiny trailer tire you don’t see much anymore. Could we even still salvage the day?
We decided to unhook the boat, put all the stuff in the car, throw the shredded tire in the back and head for town. Naw, of course no one was going to steal the old aluminum boat and trailer – or so we hoped. We were desperate! Screaming back to Fresno we began looking for a good tire place when it hit us: It was still only 6:30 a.m. and nothing was open. Talk about focused!
Driving around we finally figured Sears was our best bet and we settled in at the store parking lot, near the tire area, waiting for the first employee to arrive and possibly help us! The sun slowly came up as we anxiously watched the time tick by, when finally a lone employee comes pulling up at 8 a.m. We tackled him before he got even halfway to the store! Explaining our quandary (and turns out, he was an angler, too), we found that he had that tire! Eureka! What were the odds that the first guy was the right guy? About 45 minutes later we had a new tire!
Dashing back to the trailer, sitting in the middle of nowhere by the side of the road (still there!), we used some old waterpump pliers to bolt the tire back on while we held up the trailer. Ha! We‘re ecstatic as we pull up to the launch, but then the obvious hits us. The darn wind is now nearly gale force. The small boat and engine were going to get hammered ! Hmmm … maybe we could somehow sail along the shore and cast as we went? Why not! This wasn’t stopping us today!
Tearing along at a high clip, we worked the downwind bank with rubber worms. You had to fish fast! Looking ahead, I saw a shallow grassy island coming up, a perfect place for a big bass. I had just recently gone to a bass fishing class and they had told us to set the hook even when we just felt a tap. I wanted to try this out today, so tossing my purple worm ahead, near the island, I suddenly felt a weird tick. “Why not set the hook?” I thought. I did, hard!
My buddy watches my pole bend over, but then nothing happened! He quickly laughed out loud, “Yep, you hooked a boot bite!” Ha-ha! I’ll never forget it, because my pole just stayed bent over for about 4-5 seconds before I felt the big fish begin to slowly move away. I hadn’t even moved the fish when I set the hook! Wow! It took off right under the boat.
So there we are, rotating wildly in the wind and the fish is going crazy right under the boat in only 2 feet of water. With one hand my buddy is trying to keep us off the shore with the oar, while with the other he’s trying to get out the net. Pandemonium. The big bass thrashed in the shallow water all around us before he managed to net it.
Wow, at 8 pounds, 10 ounces a personal best – quite the unexpected outcome and a birthday present, too.
A life lesson: The very things we had initially concluded were terrible setbacks actually became the stepping stones that had led to the unexpected victory! Sometimes the best “gift” is when you suddenly realize later that it all really was the “best worst thing“ that could have happened. An accident? Naw! Never give up!