Somewhere between “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” I headed to the garage last week to throw together some ice fishing gear.
Talk about an island of misfit toys.
Left to gather dust and rust in an old tub sled is a sunflower-style Mr. Heater that served me well back in the days when I had friends willing to fish with me inside a four-person ice shelter. Maybe it was me or maybe it was the carbon monoxide exposure, but the friends abandoned me faster than Scott Calvin’s wife in “The Santa Clause” when he told her he was Santa.
As for the shelter, it had to go after a few long-distance drags that left me feeling like Harry and Marv after a night spent chasing Kevin McCallister.
That old tub sled contains some cold-weather clothing, too. There are gloves with holes in the fingers, wool socks without any heels, a pair of 1980s boots about as warm as Mr. Scrooge’s heart and a set of tattered Carhartt overalls that would delight Cousin Eddie. There’s an old mantel-style Coleman lantern that served as a light source inside the ice tent until innovations like head lamps and rope lighting.
Not far from the tub is a pegboard on the wall that’s filled with mostly forgotten fishing lures.
There’s a row of Cotton Cordell Wally Divers. They caught a lot of walleyes for my former tournament partner, Waterloo’s Neil Hammargren, and I years ago on the Mississippi River and were part of a “major award” we were thrilled to win at the time.
Another row holds a few discontinued Rapala Trolls-To-10 shad style crankbaits. They’re left over from a Cabela’s National Team Championship on Green Bay that I fished one year with Dubuque’s Maury Schmerbach. We found them in a bargain bin at a Fleet Farm store in Green Bay and clobbered the walleyes with the chrome version.
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After the tournament, I think Maury and I visited every Fleet Farm store in central Wisconsin in search of more. I felt like the Grinch stealing roast beast from the Whos.
It goes on and on.
There’s a tackle box with J-Plugs and Rebel stickbaits that used to be go-to lures for Lake Michigan king salmon, but not so much anymore. Another box has a variety of spinnerbaits that were the ticket for luring walleyes out of flooded timber during a tournament on the Missouri River chain. There’s a bag of assorted plastic tails that I was certain walleyes couldn’t resist until they did.
In a corner, there are a half-dozen fishing rods that have been ignored for years. A couple are too stiff, a couple are too short and a couple need new tips. There’s a box of discarded reels. Some have broken bail springs, some are missing handles and some are 50-year-old spinning reels that were ideal for a variety of species before smaller, lighter models replaced them.
Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius and Hermey would tell me I should find a new home for that old Charlie-in-the-box gear where it will be loved and appreciated. The ghost of fishing trips past tells me I should change my ways and rekindle those relationships with the Wally Divers, J-Plugs, old rods and bulky reels.
My wife tells me I should throw it all out and make room for her car.
The thing is, I might need that stuff. Someday, I might need backup boots and lures that work best in certain places at certain times. Someday, I’ll repair the tips on those broken rods and piece together those neglected reels. Someday, I’ll throw out the holy gloves and tattered overalls.
But first things first. All I wanted for Christmas was a Cabela’s gift card, and that’s what I got.
I’ve got some shopping to do. Keep the change, ya filthy animal.