A retreat before the game

With hours to go before the Buckeyes finally storm the gridiron tonight, I will be pacing with nervous anticipation.

So much energy clashing with so many nerves creates anxieties in even the most confident of fans. With New Year’s Eve adding to the fiesta feeling, I’m ready to get the party started. Still on morning coffee, I recognize the prudence of pacing myself.

Nobody wants to peak too early on game day. So I turn to the best thing I know to create calm before the storm. I go to my fishing bench.

Barb knows I need little reason during downtime to disappear for a couple of hours. The bench is where I find much to amuse and distract me from the seemingly no-end countdown to spring and the day when the BassCat will be primed to purr.

Today’s game is all the more reason to visit the shop. I’ll return to the past season as I organize lures, clean rods, lube reels and get all the gear in order.

As I returned order to my stuff – from lures and tool boxes to first aid kit and spare parts – 2016 flooded back to me. It was not difficult to visualize the fish and the friends who were there when things went right – and wrong.

The box of Band-Aids sent a loud-and-clear reminder about the calamity I experienced on Shenango Reservoir. It was the day I snagged a crankbait in a nylon rope and while working to free the lure, I ran its treble hook through the meat between my right hand’s index and middle fingers.

Ten minutes of drama followed the snag-up as I tried and failed in efforts to either rip my hand free or grasp the lure securely enough with my left hand to straighten the hook and pull it from the braided nylon. When I finally solved the dilemma, a sticky Band-Aid covered the wound and I went back to fishing.

Other cues from my fishing bench are happier.

A lead bullet weight tells a great story. My bullet sinkers are mostly tungsten. It is denser and harder than lead and more effective in getting plastic worms into the fish zones.

But tungsten is expensive. When I lose a tungsten sinker, I feel like I’ve wadded up two dollars and tossed them in the lake. So I use lead sometimes when the stakes are low.

I held the lead sinker in my hand and noticed it was raked with scratches created by the raspy patches on bass jaws. The weight I examined was battle-scarred by a dozen bites and hooksets on a particularly good day at Mosquito Creek Reservoir.

Offseason maintenance includes retying fluorocarbon leaders to braided main lines. During a recent rigging session, I recalled the morning in April on Mosquito with walleye pro Sammy Cappelli. A thrashing northern pike had picked up the jig-and-minnow I was fishing. The braided line sizzled as it cut a wake across the surface during the pike fight.

Simple memories like that one are important. They hold our interest between more awesome experiences.

A swivel-head jig tucked in a box unleased one of those big memories – like 100 pounds big. If one measure of fishing success is pounds, then the day I joined the “century club” on Lake Erie is noteworthy.

The jig I held reminded me of the smallmouth trek with bass buddy Ricky White. The bass fishing was tough and I confess to becoming preoccupied by the huge sheepshead that were far more interested in my jig than the smallies. Fish after fish gulped my jig and tested my line’s breaking point.

I’m itching for tonight’s football game to get started, but I have my retreat for pre-game jitters. Whether 15 minutes or two hours, a pass through my fishing gear is always worth the time. The memories come. Big fish. Lots of fish. Great friends. Beautiful vistas.

They all become real again on the bench in my basement.


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