Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quiet! Don't scare the fish!

The biggest fish I ever caught was a largemouth bass out of my great uncle George Dana's farm pond near Olathe, Kansas, about 1960.  I used a spinning reel with the first fishing lure I ever bought.  Normally, I'd use a cork bobber and a night crawler, like the rest of the family, and we'd haul in a decent fishfry, mostly bluegills and a few small catfish.  My grandmother refused to gut and clean the catch, but she fried a great dinner.

Fishermen raised in lesser traditions have sneered at my technique.

My dad, an AIQ veterinarian and microbiologist who worked for the USDA at the NADL lab in Ames, Iowa, remained a farm boy his entire life.  I was a suburban kid in what I would now classify as the "poor intellectual" class, and that meant I didn't actually know squat about the Great Outdoors.  I never shot nuthin' with my .22 LR single shot Savage, and other than what I caught on a bamboo pole in Kansas farm ponds, I knew nothing about fishing.  Later in life, I bought a spinning reel on a good graphite rod, and caught more bluegills.  I've had more fishing licenses than fish, though.

Enter the Playstation PSP videogame, Rapala Trophies.  Rapala is a real company that sells real fishing tackle, started by an old geezer in Finland in 1936.  Therein lies a contradiction.

Most fishermen during and since the Pleistocene have caught fish to feed themselves and their families.  Rich fishermen catch fish because they're bored and seek entertainment.  Fish for their tables comes frozen, or at the supermarket on ice if it's relatively fresh and flown in from the big catfish farms of the American south.  Rich fishermen buy tilapia.  Poor fishermen catch slimeheads.  It's the same fish.

What canny old Lauri Rapala did with that first fishing lure of his was cast it into limpid pools of filthy rich ubanity and hook his first million, selling to fishermen. You've got it!  Rapala Trophies is an old joke in new clown shoes: "Fancy lures catch fancy fishermen."

The PSP game marketed by Rapala is designed to barb fishing newbies in the cheek and get their bucks. It's pure Izaak Walton that one's bait should match the time of year, the weather and the catch, and never swear at the one that got away, for never having had it to hand, it cannot be lost.   I came off relatively unscathed.  I bought the game for ten bucks used, half the normal price.

I do have a gripe or two about the bait.  First of all, the "guide" has a head-thumping nasal twang as obnoxious as a Billy Mays sales pitch.  Secondly, real nature does not come with elevator music.  Third,  the profile characters all wear jeans that display a butt like two bocci balls.  Scaled up on the women.  Bowling balls, fore and aft.  Country thugs and bullies, for the most part, who eat their fish raw, right off the hook.  The women characters look like Dukes of Hazzard jailbait, except for broad-shouldered women who crack wise in the pineywoods.  "Oh, yeah?"  The fish win these contests because they have higher I.Q.s than the fisherpersons. Or the developers. Case in point, how do you "Save your profile" with no freaking SAVE option? Dumberer than dumb.  (There is a save option in the Tournament section.  Doesn't save a Free Fishing profile, though.)

But, to wax philosophical for a moment, everything good said of fishing can be said of golf.  Which is the truer abstract of the human condition?  Fishing, which destroys the fish?  Or golf, which destroys the golfer — by inches?

I'll probably sell Rapala Trophies back to the store one of these days.  Or, possibly, break that UMD disk apart and rub the round silvery bit on a sidewalk.

I think I liked Ocarina of Time's version of virtual fishing better.

Done, for a dollar.

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