Fish Tales

When the e-mail announcing International Speedway Corporation’s First Annual Fishing Tournament, I went for it — hook, line and sinker.

For those of you not familiar with the lingo of experienced anglers, that means I eagerly awaited even the slightest chance to claim my first (and likely only) championship at Daytona International Speedway.

Realizing that I needed an advantage no one else would have, I called NASCAR legend Bobby Allison. He knows a little about fishing on Lake Lloyd, which came to be when “Big Bill” France dug a huge hole and built “The World Center of Racing” in 1959. France used that dirt to form the 31-degree banking in the track’s turns.

Allison used those turns to win the Daytona 500 in 1978, 1982 and 1988. He used the lake to grab trophies in three NASCAR fishing tournaments.

Of course, I’m not an experienced angler — unless you count the lunker I landed north of Orlando in 2003 after a dizzying night with old friends. I’m still not sure if I landed that bass or if it landed me.

Other than that, my experience with a fishing pole basically stopped during the mid-1970s. As an 11-year-old, I danced with glee in landing a small fish known as bream, a small, bluish-colored fish from a canal hat only birds circling above would eat.

All that meant I was thrilled to have Allison's advice about pulling a monster fish from the lake he once ruled.

“What I always did back there was use a little bait-casting rod and I had what’s called a crank bait — an artificial lure that at the time was called a Bagley minnow,” Allison said.

I listened with a concentration that would have been rivaled only by a phone call from Bill Gates offering advice on which new tech stocks would make me my first million bucks.

“I’d just toss it up close to the lilly pads and the weeds near the edge and just drag it on in,” he told me.

I remember thinking, “Those rubes I’m fishing against don’t have a chance.” He even told me where to go on the lake (keep in mind that it’s a little more than a half-mile long and about 200 yards across).

“I did my best toward the infield side of the lake toward Turn 4,” Allison said as the sun seemed to brighten a bit and the air suddenly grew crisper. Stocked with his secrets, the other ISC employees had a long afternoon of envy ahead of them. I was absolutely sure of it, especially when Bobby told me that he hoped I’d win.

His well wishes, keeping in mind that I’d be walking on the hallowed grounds of Daytona International Speedway, amounted to a Catholic being touched on the shoulder by the pope.

To make a long story short, I failed. I barely even saw a fish, let alone set a hook on one.

During the award festivities following our session, I stood in disbelief looking at a trophy bass mounted on a plaque bearing Darrell Waltrip’s name. He won the NASCAR tournament in 2007.

They announced the names of the winners, Tina Martin, Brad Kockler, Randy Sheffield and George Burgess. But, as I stared at that mounted bass and the smiling faces, I realized that I had failed my newfound guru, Bobby Allison. Try lugging that thought around Daytona with you.

Anyway, as I stared at that fish with Waltrip’s name on it, something struck me. During our conversation, before I’d even seen the plaque, Allison had offered me an excuse without even knowing it.

“The one that Darrell caught during the racer’s contest last year was about a 10-pounder,” Allison said, “but he probably had it tied under the boat.”

So, to maintain what’s left of my fragile ego, I’ll just say that I’m not accusing my fellow employees of cheating. But, I’m not so sure they didn’t have their fish tied to the pilings of the pier.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008

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