Fishing lures attract more fishermen than they do fish. Tackle shops sell lures in every color from “Fire Tiger” to “Nuclear Watermelon.” It’s nonsense — you don’t need that stuff to catch fish. You can use the bowl of an old teaspoon. Or, if you’re really old-fashioned, a worm. But fishermen can’t resist those fancy colors. Only one thing will draw in a fisherman faster than a lure in a color he hasn’t got: a story about a secret fishing spot full of big fish.
Trust me, I know how to lure in a fisherman.
Lance’s tackle box must’ve had a lure in every color they make. He was in the bow seat of my jon boat, a flashlight in his teeth, fumbling through junk he didn’t need, trying to find something he did.
“Why’d you bring all that stuff?” I asked. “Lures don’t catch catfish.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I haven’t got my gear organized. I haven’t been fishing much lately.”
“I noticed. I’ve been fishing by myself for months now.” Something buzzed by my ear. “Now turn off that light before every mosquito in the swamp finds us.”
He switched it off, and the swamp went black. “I’ve been busy on Friday and Saturday nights,” he said. “Sorry.”
“It don’t bother me none.”
His reel buzzed as he cast out, and his bait plopped into the water. “Are you sure about this spot?” he said. “It doesn’t seem like a great place for catfish.”
“I told you there’s catfish here. Biggest you’ve ever seen.”
“That’s why I’m here. How did you even find this place? I’ve never even been this far into the swamp before.”
I let the frogs drown out his babbling. Out in the darkness, something bigger than a frog splashed.
I hoped Lance would let us fish a while in peace, but he never could be content with just fishing, and started yakking again. “How’s Betty?” he said. “I haven’t seen her in a while.”
I didn’t answer him.
“You’re a lucky man,” he said. “I should get myself a wife like that.”
A deep bellow rumbled out of the darkness.
“What the hell was that?” Lance said.
“Just a bull gator,” I said, “warning other gators away from his territory.”
“Maybe we should get out of here. Nothing’s biting.”
“Give it time,” I said. “Things will heat up when the time is right.”
“When’s that going to be?”
“What time is it now?”
At the front of the boat, something glowed blue.
“Your phone?” I said. “What did you even bring that for? It’s no good this far out. ”
“Even without service, it can still tell me what time it is. Quarter to midnight.” The glow disappeared.
“You too good to wear a watch now?”
“I lost mine somewhere,” he said.
“How do you lose a watch?”
“Don’t know. Must’ve slipped off.” He chuckled. “I think we should go. Your super-secret fishing spot isn’t doing it for me.”
I keep a paddle stowed on the boat in case the outboard conks out. I pulled it out and slapped the blade down onto the surface of the water.
Lance jumped in his seat. “What the —”
The frogs went quiet. I slapped the water a few more times. “Catfish come to the sound,” I said. “They think it’s a gator feeding, and hope they’ll get the scraps.”
“Warn me next time. You got me all wet.”
I switched on the spotlight and shined it around us. Everywhere it touched, pairs of red eyes glowed back at us.
“Damn,” said Lance. “That’s a lot of gators.”
The eyes all drifted toward us.
“Gators all come check out what one of their buddies catches. Don’t worry.” I patted the shotgun next to me. “There’s no problem double-ought can’t solve.”
His reel buzzed.
“You got one,” I said.
He yanked back on his rod and reeled in. The catfish breached the surface with a splash, and it looked like Lance was going to get it to the boat. Then, the surface exploded. Lance’s broken line hung limp from his rod. The catfish was gone. Trapped on a hook and thrashing around, it was easy prey for the gator that stole it.
“Hate to lose one like that,” I said.
“We’ll never land anything,” he said. “These gators will take anything we hook.”
“Yeah. Looks like anything struggling in the water will get torn to pieces.”
“Let’s get out of here.” He started to pack up his gear.
“By the way,” I said, “I have your watch, if you want it back.”
“My watch? Where did you find that?”
“Under Betty’s pillow,” I said. I picked up my shotgun.
G. L. Dearman spent two decades working in science labs before making a daring midnight escape. Now, he makes up brazen but entertaining lies for a living. He resides in rural North Florida.