"I dunno myself," replied Wood, shoving his Stetson back on his head. "I dunno how to use half of 'em, and the other half are dummies."
About 15% of the 200 contestants at an average bass fishing tournament are professionals—that is, men who can win enough prize money to make it a substantial source of income. A 32-year-old named Roland Martin, for example, has pocketed $22,000 in a single season. But don't confuse Martin with the jolly fisherman who bellies up to the bar after a hard day's work to tell about the hawg that got away. When Martin's around, they don't get away. "If I don't get a fish on three of four casts," he says with a snap of the fingers. "I go." One rival of Martin's says, "You don't laugh and joke out there; it's a whole different game."
When Martin goes he goes fast. His only defense against men who would trail him to the best bass holes—everybody does advance scouting—is speed. When the boats are sent off in three howling waves at the start of a tournament to fish a lake 40 miles long by 10 wide, say, the racing can be just as competitive as the casting.
And let's face it, people like fast boats anyway—and damn the tree stumps that trap many a bass lake. "When they shoot the gun, you floorboard the thing," says Forrest Wood. Stan Sloan of Nashville, who concocts the non-fouling Zorro lures, runs a 16-footer with a whacking big 150-hp engine weighing down its stern. Its horsepower far surpasses the limit prescribed by the Boating Industry Association for a craft of that size, but no matter.
Andy Williams of Union Springs, Ala. is another speed merchant. His Allison also has a 150-hp sting in its tail. "It pleasures me to know I can go anywhere I want to, anytime," says Williams of his skimmer. "This boat moves. I've always liked a fast rig because it treats me good. I get a lot of personal enjoyment out of horsepower along with the fishing."
In another day fishing was fishing and running was running, but as one man with a Cadillac but no hawgs in the live well summed it up, "If you can't catch fish, you just have fun running."