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A man goes bass fishing in order to get away, breathe free, eat sardines and suck on his teeth in peace, right? So why is that Cajun crop-duster pilot posing for pictures in front of a big tank full of lemon-lime-colored liquid, saying "Thank you very much, fish" to a bass in the tank and holding up a check for $15,000?
Because he, Jack Hains of Rayne, La., has just won the fifth annual BASS Masters ("Mystery") Classic at Currituck Sound near Kitty Hawk, N.C. He has whipped 18 of that fish's peers and 29 of his own, including Jimmy Houston of Tahlequah, Okla., who fishes in white pants with red and blue stars embroidered down the seams and a red shirt with his name and BILL NORMAN LURES stitched on it. The outfit comes with a little white jacket, too, that he....
He fishes in what? Wait a minute! Who ever heard of a bass fisherman dressed like that? This is not some kind of Yip-pie making a mockery of bass fishing, is it? We will attend to Hains and his flashy check and peculiar ceremony later. First, let us go back three days' time, to practice day of the Classic, and take a closer look at Houston.
He is standing vividly in the bow of a boat, casting toward one of Currituck's grassy banks. He sounds like a bass fisherman. "I'm gonna fish this water right here. There's a terrible amount of good water right here. They're up in under them roots."
He holds up a lure known as a Pico Pop. It looks suitable enough, like a chunky, scared-to-death baitfish or a legless, streamlined frog. It is designed to be twitched on top of the water. "I've caught a laaaht of big fish on these," says Houston. He casts and twitches. "Look at that rascal! Looks goood. I just can't imagine something not coming up and getting ahold of that."
He casts, twitches. "I know they're up in under there. Up under them old grass roots. Them old stump roots. I don't know why a man couldn't catch a lot of fish in this water."
Casts, twitches. "This is pretty water."
It is not even out of character for Houston to have blond hair way down below his collar. You don't have to be a hippie these days, even up under the old grass roots of Tahlequah, to have a lot of hair. Houston is 30, and when he has time he sells insurance. "I hate to give up that insurance agency," he says.' 'It's like selling an old shotgun." Insurance, you figure, is a reasonable thing for a bass fisherman to be in.
But he is also in that garish costume! Who ever heard of a bass fisherman looking like Evel Knievel?
Then again, many people think of a fishing boat as...comfortable. Maybe grubby. You could spill a couple of beers, some ketchup, a can of oil or some of that soggy fuzz that worms come in and it wouldn't be noticed.