- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2002

Matt Vincent, the editor of B.A.S.S. Times, one of the publications owned by the international Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, has more than a few delightful definitions about what constitutes a hard-core fisherman.
Vincent, a friend of many years, says, "You're a hard-core bass angler if you've been hooked in the head by another angler at least once from a distance greater than 10 yards."
Having qualified a number of times in that department admittedly at shorter distances, but very much aware of the pain all the same may I add that the worst possible scenario is that of a bumbling fishing pal swinging his rod backward, then attempting to execute a mighty cast. He comes forward with considerable force right around the time his lure touches you, and three separate treble hooks from a 7- or 8-inch-long Rapala jerkbait become embedded in various parts of your clothing and/or flesh.
It happened to me while fishing for surface-erupting striped bass (OK, so they're not largemouths) in Virginia's Lake Anna several years ago. One of the lure's treble hooks caught me in the right cheek just under the eye; another somewhere near the chin; the remaining hook caught the edge of a jacket collar.
Yes, we stopped fishing and visited a medical professional. Never mind telling me that you can do a fine job of snatching the lure free with a short length of strong monofilament line wrapped into the belly of the hook. When a hook digs itself into my face, I want to see a white-coated person reeking of disinfectant, somebody who has a stethoscope around his neck. During such emergencies, I don't want a smelly fishing partner with tobacco juice dribbling from the corner of his mouth laughing at my misfortune.
To this day, when I see another fisherman near me wind up with a mighty cast that involves terminal tackle coming over his back and close to my face, I immediately try to drop down into the bottom of the boat.
But let us continue with a sampling of Vincent's wisdom. He says, "You're a hard-core bass angler if there is at least one set of underwear in your dresser drawer with an image of a bass on it. And you wear them."
You've got me there, Matt. The closest I can come to that kind of underwear is a pair of boxer shorts covered with red hearts that my better half presented me some years ago. I'm afraid to throw them out and sometimes even feel compelled to wear them. It has something to do with wanting a regular meal every day. No heart-covered boxers, no hot, delicious food, I learned.
Matty also says that you're hard-core if fishing takes precedence over birthday parties, anniversaries and weddings.
Wonder if he'll accept my missing an entire New Year's Eve party because of a fishing trip. I promised I'd be back home with time to spare. On a not-too-long-ago Dec. 31, two fellow fishing nuts and I visited the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. We fished for chain pickerel and crappies all day from sunrise until total darkness. When I arrived home the air was chillier inside the house then out on the lawn.
"Where have you been?" was the question, but I never fully answered it because I collapsed on the bed and fell asleep, missing the party at a nonfishing (and not very understanding) neighbor's house. The frosty air at the Mueller home remained for a few days maybe even a week.
Apparently, I didn't learn from it, because I called my wife one day to tell her I wouldn't be home to eat supper. "Why?" she asked, and she had a right to.
"Because I'm in Cape Hatteras, N.C., surf fishing," I told her. I'd forgotten that my partners (who were no-accounts, according to my Southern bride) were leaving straight from work that day to head for North Carolina's fabled Outer Banks and that I'd promised to meet them. My wife was shopping. I went home, forgot to write even a short note, grabbed up the essentials waders, rods, etc. and went to Cape Hatteras, putting off a call to the home base until I arrived on the Atlantic island.
Talk about cool conditions at my house when I returned. But eventually she granted amnesty.
The B.A.S.S. Times editor also says that you're a hard-core angler when "fishing is still considered a viable option when the temperature drops below 40 degrees."
Get serious. Forty degrees? That's balmy compared to some of the weather we fish in. In fact, regular readers will recall our annual custom of accompanying a friend during the New Year's Day fishing trips he's done for nearly 30 years, and I've been with him on those frostbite outings for the past five or six.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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