Sometimes, It's More Than Just the Luck of the Irish

For as long as I've known my wife, we've always gone fishing on the Friday before Saint Patrick's Day. This tradition has endured for so many years that I can no longer recall exactly how or why it began. It may have simply started in response to the angle of the sun. By mid-March, winter has worn out its welcome around our house. We're more than ready to expose our lily-white, winterized legs to a little sunshine.

Teresa does it again.
Teresa does it again.

While I may not recall precisely how this tradition began, I know all too well why this yearly fishing pilgrimage continues to this day. It's Teresa's idea. She derives boundless joy from delivering my annual Saint Patrick's Day Bass Fishing Butt Kicking. You heard me right. Every single Saint Patrick's Day, without fail, my wife kicks my butt out on the lake. She embarrasses me. She out-fishes me.

Now, don't believe for one second that I take this butt kicking without putting up a fight. I come well armed for doing battle with the wily largemouth bass. I own a boat specifically configured for catching them. It bristles with high tech gear. It's equipped barometers, thermometers, and two complete sonar systems, each with its own high resolution display screen and keypad. My hunt is aided by an electronic compass and Global Positioning System satellite receiver. Once I've zeroed in on my prey, I have a large number of fishing rods and reels at my disposal. They're constructed from exotic materials like titanium and composite graphite, and loaded with the best polymer fishing line money can buy. My multiple tackle boxes contain thousands of lures of every description, many of them painstakingly hand tuned by me. Let there be no mistake: When my boat hits the water, I'm ready to catch some bass.

Teresa, on the other hand, owns only a single "fishing pole", spooled with 5-year-old "string". Every Saint Patrick's Day, she gets out her dinky, purse-sized tackle box, and pulls from it the same old, rusty, beat-up spinner bait. She originally purchased this lure because she thought it looked a lot like a cool earring. Armed with this meager assortment of rookie gear, she then proceeds to thoroughly kick my butt.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with bass fishing, allow me to share some of the vast knowledge I've acquired through thousands of hours on the water: First, fishing in mid-March is tough. The frigid water makes the bass sluggish and difficult to entice into biting, even if your lure does look like an earring. I've also learned that the reservoirs in Guilford County are notorious for holding puny bass. Being the experienced fisherman I am, I accept these tidbits of information as fact. However, my wife has not educated herself in the fine art of bass fishing as I have. Ignorant of these facts, she consistently fills her Saint Patrick's Day creel with large numbers of incredibly large bass.

When I say that Teresa catches large bass, I am not exaggerating in the least. "Huge" might be a better description. Come Saint Patrick's Day, it is not at all uncommon for her to haul in bass weighing in excess of seven pounds. Some are large enough to be recognized by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as "trophy" fish. They award certificates for fish of this size! These are once-in-a-lifetime fish! It sometimes takes eight or ten of my fish (if I could catch that many) to equal the weight of just one of hers.

I clearly recall the very first Saint Patrick's Day Teresa hooked one of these huge fish. As we slowly trolled through the early morning mist rising from Lake Townsend, I observed her fishing technique. She was doing it all wrong. She was retrieving her spinner bait far too slowly, allowing it to lazily bump along the bottom of the lake. I wanted to snatch the rod from her hands and demonstrate the proper technique for fishing a spinner bait. Instead, I came up with something a little sneakier. Being confident that Teresa could not possibly catch anything by fishing the wrong way, I proposed a contest. Whoever caught the largest fish would be served beers all night long by the loser. She accepted my challenge. Confident that I would soon be enjoying the services of my beer slave, I returned my attention to fishing.

Seconds later, Teresa excitedly shouted, "I've got one. A big one!"

I casually glanced in her direction, confident that she'd probably hung her lure on a stump at the bottom of the lake. After all, she was fishing all wrong. Instead, I was shocked by the sight of a monstrous bass exploding out of the water just feet from the boat. It almost scared me. It was bigger than any bass I'd ever seen.

Fulfilling my wagering obligation, I served Teresa beers all that night. Believe me, she was none too shy about telling folks exactly why I was forced to deliver her refreshments.

At first, I chalked this incident up as a freak accident. I supposed that it was remotely possible to catch a huge bass even if you were fishing all wrong. The following Saint Patrick's Day, I chose Lake Higgins for our next contest. From past experience, I knew some good fishing spots there. I carefully positioned the boat so that I'd have first crack at these spots. Once again, Teresa fished all wrong. Once again, she hooked a huge fish that only seconds earlier had completely ignored my perfectly presented bait. Once again, I spent my evening refilling Teresa's seemingly bottomless beer mug as she recounted her angling success to all who would listen.

This freak accident continued to repeat itself year after year after year.

Eventually, I began to suspect that Teresa might possess some magic fishing secret she was hiding from me. Me! Her own husband! I knew that she'd grown up fishing. She'd often told me stories of many happy days spent on the lake by her father's side. Perhaps her dad had passed on some family fishing secret. However, Teresa claimed to have picked up only one basic fishing skill from her father: the ability to go all day long without peeing. It was required. I can attest to the fact that she learned this skill well. Teresa can drink a full thermos of coffee out on the lake, yet never request a trip back to the dock for relief. It's a marvelous thing to behold. It's one of the reasons I married her.

Nearing desperation, and determined to put an end to the butt-kickings, I spent a sizable sum of money to attend a three-day class presented by a group of professional bass fishermen. (That's right - I've been to fishing school. Gawd, I love the South.) One of the teachers was a North Carolina boy named David Fritts. He'd recently won the Bass Masters Classic - the Super Bowl of professional bass fishing. To look at him, you'd never guess his winnings had made him a multimillionaire. But, his lecture made it quite obvious that he'd spent the majority of his lifetime figuring out how to win those millions.

One of the topics Mr. Fritts discussed was "late spring, cold water, pre-spawn tactics". In plain English, this roughly translates to "how to catch fish on Saint Patrick's Day". He went on to demonstrate a new technique he called "slow-rolling a spinner bait". He pointed out that this technique might seem odd to those of us accustomed to the "traditional method" of using this bait. Odd, indeed! He was fishing this bait all wrong - exactly like my wife does it!

This past Friday, the tradition continued. Teresa and I placed our bets, launched the boat, and enjoyed a spectacularly beautiful North Carolina day out on the lake. But this year, I kept a pretty close eye on Teresa - and not just because she's very nice to look at. I wanted to be sure I didn't miss any new techniques my crafty fisherman of a wife might invent.

I also ended up serving her beers that night. Who am I to break a long-standing tradition?