Full Time Baseball Coach, Part Time Boat Mechanic

Sometimes I get lucky, and this column practically writes itself. With baseball season in the books, I decided that I needed a little time on the water to recuperate. I always say that with hunting and fishing that it takes a little bit of suffering before you get the joy of killing a big buck or hauling in a nice load of fish. If that holds true, then I should be the next Bill Dance any day now.

The thing about taking so much time off from fishing is your equipment tends to get a little out of sorts, especially my boat. You might recall the last time that I took my boat out the engine was acting up and only running on about half power. That last trip out also consisted of running out of gas in the middle of the Mississippi River at 3:00 in the morning. After a trip to the mechanic (shout out to Brent Alexander), I put the boat in the garage where it stayed for the duration of baseball season. This is my first mistake.

Lightly put, I’m no mechanic. I basically know how to put gas in the tank and turn the key. If that doesn’t make it crank, google becomes my best friend. Well, apparently your battery has to be in good working condition, too. To the store I went. New batteries and fresh gas will surely make it crank right up, right? Nope. According to every outboard motor forum on the web, the carburetor is likely gummed up. Run some Sea Foam in with your gas and you should be good to go. After a few hours of tinkering with it, I finally got it running. The old engine purred, never skipped, and seemed to be ready to go.

Sunday afternoon arrives and I want to get on the water. Just to be sure, I hook the hose up and crank the motor one more time. With one turn of the key, she fires right up and sounds great. I boasted to my wife that I am now an accomplished boat mechanic. I loaded my depleted stock of bass fishing gear into the truck and took off toward Lake Bill Waller. It felt so freeing to finally be headed to the lake KNOWING that all of my equipment was good to go.

I pulled up to the boat launch so excited that I backed the boat in before realizing that I’d left the transom straps still attached to the trailer. “That’s ok”, I thought. I’m just getting back into the swing of things. After unhooking the straps, and making sure the plug was in the boat, I backed it down and fired it up. Except, it wouldn’t fire up. The son of a gun would not crank! I couldn’t believe it. After double checking before leaving the house, why is it not cranking now? I calmly tinkered with the fuel line to make sure it was getting gas. It was, and eventually it fired up. Time to fish.

It was hot. The bite was slow, but I was happy to be on the water, regardless. I fished for a couple of hours, catching only one small bass. Part of that was probably due to me being rusty. I backlashed my reel about a half dozen times before finally catching my groove. As frustrating as that was, I kind of expected it seeing that it has been about two years since I’ve really been bass fishing. The sun that had been baking me for the last couple of hours finally dipped below the tree line, so I started preparing to return to the ramp. This is where things get interesting.

First, the motor doesn’t want to crank again. I take the cowling off and inspect everything again to the best of my limited knowledge. After a few minutes, the motor cranks up and I ease my way toward the boat lane. I get about 30-40 feet from the lane and the boat gets stuck on a treetop just below the surface. Now, I’ve had this happen before and usually you can rock your way off of it. Not this time. The tree just swayed back and forth with the boat and wouldn’t budge. Running out of options, I strapped on my life vest and hopped into the lake in hopes that I could push the boat off. It wouldn’t budge. Have you ever had that feeling that someone was watching you? While in the water, that feeling hit me so hard. I looked around and sure enough there were a set of eyes on me.

Not long before I packed up my gear to head back to the ramp, I’d encountered a decent sized alligator. Turns out, he was interested in my situation. While thrashing around in the water trying to dislodge the boat, my reptilian friend was about 30 feet away watching me. Not knowing his intentions, I felt it best to ease out of the water back into the boat. As easy as this may sound, I had a pretty tough time getting my fat self back aboard. It’s been a while since I’ve seen abdominal muscles, but the soreness I have today lets me know they are still there.

Fortunately, there was another boat on the lake headed toward the launch. I flashed my lights a few times and thankfully he saw them. The boat headed my direction and much to my pleasure I actually knew the guy. Ryan Luethje, and his wife, were kind enough to pull me off the stump and into the boat lane. Had he not of been there, I might still be out there hanging out with a half working motor and the alligators. If this first trip of the summer is any indication of things to come, and if suffering really breeds success, I’ll either be dead by August or joining one of the pro fishing circuits.

Before I go, I want to share one more thought about college baseball in our area. Is Hattiesburg not the best college baseball town in America? William Carey finishes the season 4th in the country in the NAIA after going to the World Series and USM finishes one game away from a trip to NCAA College World Series in Omaha after hosting a super-regional! The City of Hattiesburg and the State of Mississippi should be incredibly proud of both teams and their accomplishments. Let’s do it again next year!

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