“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”
That’s how Ernest Hemingway started ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ It’s also how I started this story, which is very similar to ‘The Old Man and the Sea,’ except for the parts that are different, which happens to be most of them. But it’s a fish story, so there’s that.
The differences are really quite minor, actually, between Papa’s story and mine. They’re so close, in fact, that I briefly considered just writing ‘read The Old Man and the Sea’ and calling it this week’s column. But I didn’t, because of plagiarism, or something. Plus that book is a little longer than my columns usually are.
My old man is actually thirty, and he doesn’t fish alone if anyone will go with him, and he doesn’t fish in a skiff but a bass boat, and he doesn’t fish the Gulf Stream much. So I guess my story is pretty different. But last week my young old man may have felt like he’d gone eighty-four days without taking a fish. Almost.
Cody Ryan Greaney is a pro bass fisherman from Austin, and he’s been fishing pretty much all his life. He got his first fishing rod the day he was born, and he and his dad, TJ, spent just about every minute they could together, fishing in any lake, river, and pond they could, plus all up and down the Gulf Coast. TJ started taking Cody out of school for a fishing trip on his birthday every year, despite protests from Mom and school. And it paid off.
See, that’s the problem with a lot of parents these days. They seem to think nothing is more important than school, when in fact a kid can sometimes learn more doing something else for a day, now and then. And you’d have a hard time finding a more worthwhile activity than fishing with Dad.
Cody started a fishing club when he was in high school, and snuck onto golf courses to fish the waterholes when he thought he could get away with it. He fished every tournament he could during college, and eventually snagged some sponsors and went pro.
Not that being a pro fisherman is all that lucrative, unless you win some big tournaments, but on the upside, you get to fish a lot. And what it all boils down to, really, is doing what you enjoy in life.
John Jefferson, one of the finest outdoor writers I’ve ever known, once said, “To live life to its fullest, man must love. And fish.” I have nothing to add to that.
Cody, however, has been looking forward to hitting the big time in pro bass fishing for a long time. And last week he finally fished in his first big Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society Bass Master Open tournament, on Lake Amistad, at Del Rio. Say that three times real fast.
It was a tough tournament to start the bigs on, as the first day, last Thursday, was the coldest day ever in a Bass Master tournament, with a temperature of 26 degrees. My experience has been that the fish don’t bite at all when it’s that cold. At least not in my living room, which is as close as I’m getting to a lake when it’s 26 degrees.
But Cody had already spent six days pre-fishing on Amistad, and although he had only gotten a couple of bites a day all that time, and although it may have felt like it had been 84 days since he’d taken a fish, Cody went out and fished. At 26 degrees the wind bites a lot harder than the bass, but Cody managed to bring in five fish that weighed just over 15 pounds. And after the first day of his first big one, he was in fourth place.
The second day was harder on everyone, even though it was just a tad warmer. Cody ended up with four fish on the second day that weighed just over 7 pounds, and slipped to fifth. With one day to go, and a new bass boat waiting for the big winner, the tournament was still up for grabs.
Day three was a lot warmer, and Cody did better than he had on day two, but so did everyone. I watched the weigh-in on the B.A.S.S. website, and saw Cody come in with a five fish limit that weighed just over 11 pounds, which was better than most of the top 12 anglers brought in. And when the dust settled, so to speak, Cody ended up at fourth place in his first Bass Master tournament.
I called Cody the next night and he told me about the tournament, about his strategy, and how he found a ‘sweet spot’ during his six days of pre-fishing, where the ‘juice’ was. He told me what he caught his fish on, which I will gladly tell you, in exchange for a dead president or two. And he told me how it felt to finally come in near the top of the pack, doing what he loves to do.
He said, “It was great.”
Finishing fourth may not seem so exceptional, but there are probably less than 500 pro bass fishers in the country, and out of the 165 of those that fished at Amistad, Cody caught more fish than all but three of them.
I’d call that an outstanding way to spend any week . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once caught a cold. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org