Remember the good old days when, as it applied to fishing, “drag” was something that you had on your spinning reel? Well, that quaint definition has gone by the boards, now that a fundraiser for a North Country bass tournament will include a drag show to be deliciously known as Camp Fishsticks.
Money raised from the affair will benefit the popular Bass Masters Elite tournament in Waddington this July, which draws thousands of manly sportsmen each year, but costs upwards of $200,000 to produce. So organizer Bob Giordano, who is a true genius in my mind, came up with the idea of Camp Fishsticks to feature, according to North Country Public Radio, the region’s “vibrant community of singers, dancers and comedians who dress up as the opposite gender.”
This, it seems, kind of completes the circle of the rugged outdoorsman of Monty Python lumberjack fame who “puts on women’s clothing and hangs around in bars.” And for the drag performers themselves, it has to be some uncharted waters that are ripe for the picking.
Is that a Rapala in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Any sport filled with rods and largemouths is bound to be almost embarrassingly easy pickings for any self-respecting drag performer. And this is not to mention the brassieres and fishnet stockings.
Bass fishing and drag shows do share some commonality, I would think. They tend to be noisy, colorful and somewhat less than subtle. The sportsmen dress up their lures with the same care and attention to detail used by drag performers to apply their makeup. All to land a poor “fish” that is deceived by outward appearances.
The tournaments themselves are fascinating spectacles, as a beehive of anglers descend on a lake and pull bass from the waters with ruthless efficiency. I know there’s a skill to everything, but professional bass fishermen just seem to be able to pull in fish in at will. Whenever a cast comes back without a lunker on the line, they view it as a failure normally associated with North Korea missile launches.
I had the pleasure of fishing once with the late Butch Ward, a record-holding smallmouth angler, and it was quite the experience. It had always been imparted upon me that the key to fishing was patience. In retrospect, I think this was just something that grandpas told small boys in order to get them to sit still for more than three minutes at a time.
Because Butch was not a patient man. Two casts, three tops, without a strike and he would have his bass boat hurtling across the lake to try another locale, snarling like a bobcat at his bad luck — this, mind you, after he had already hauled in a half-dozen trophy-sized smallmouth. And, while I always took no small amount of pride in my long, high graceful casts, Butch viewed this as a horrific waste of good fishing time.
He would glare at my lure as it went arcing slowly across the sky, checking his watch a few times and remarking that it would have been possible to boat three fish by the time my bait had hit the water. Butch’s casts, by contrast, appeared as an arrow shot from a bow, splashing into the water with an alarming ferocity, bringing to mind another grandpa myth that little boys, when fishing, needed to be very, very quiet or it would scare the fish away.
I don’t know what Butch might have thought about a drag show for the benefit of a bass tournament. I suspect he would have thought it was a hoot, although I doubt he would have taken the time to attend Camp Fishsticks. To Butch, anything other than fishing was just details.
Illustration: Largemouth Bass, courtesy DEC.