The Devil down by the launch ramp

Maybe I’d seen his rig around a few times before, I’m not sure. Could have been up around the Delta or maybe at Castaic. But there he was: the Devil, himself, down by the ramp, holding court and seeing who’d listen.

He’s got that way, you know. That certain way about him. Of course, there are no horns or cloven hoof or pitchfork. Nobody would give him any time if he was that obvious. And he ain’t red either--maybe a little wind-burned, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Anyway, he’s talkin’ and he’s watchin’. Of course, he’s got all the best gear--the new baits, the fluoro, the color sonar. But he lays the stuff out on the deck a little more carelessly than you or I might—especially those $500 reels and $60 swimbaits.

Yeah, it looks careless, but is it really? Maybe it’s just bait (in a manner of speaking.)

There’s a bit of a crowd around him at first. Some are curious, maybe a few recognize him from somewhere else. And, human nature being what it is, of course, that initial crowd draws the attention of others. As guys finish wiping down, or locking their rod lockers, they stroll over to the group, exchange a few pleasantries—maybe even a few lies.

It’s on the eve of the new tournament season, you know, and that’s the hot topic. The Devil seems to be pretty informed about the schedules, about the biggest payouts, and funny, he knows the rules of every organization by heart. He also seems extremely knowledgeable about the circuits and everyone who fishes them. Give him your name and he can tell you the region you fish and how you finished.

But small talk and braggadocio all have a way of dissipating, and eventually the crowd breaks up. The guys head back to their boats; make a last check of the tie downs and straps and climb in for the drive home.

But not all.

One stays, fingering a gleaming, handmade swimbait, knowing full well, there’s no margin in his budget for such a toy. Besides, he’ll need every penny for his half of the entry fee coming up, and he’s still not sure how he’ll get into the options. The fisherman pauses and lets his mind wander as he looks out over the lake. He muses on how it must feel to hold up that winning plaque and squeeze a check for a couple of grand.

And the Devil takes it all in. He pauses too, then boldly asks, “Would you cheat out there to win a tournament?”

The fisherman, jolted back into the moment says, “What?”

“Would you cheat to win a bass tournament?” the Devil repeats.

“Of course not,” says the fisherman.

“Would you cheat for 100 bucks? Maybe cast over into the closed area?” the Devil asks again.

“No!” says the fisherman.

“Well,” the Devil persists. “Would you cheat for a $1,000? What does second place pay, anyway?”

“No,” the fisherman responds again. “I’m not going to risk my place around here for a thousand dollars. Guys know me. I’m on all the websites.”

“Okay,” says the Devil. “Let’s make it $5,000. Would you cheat for $5,000? Hardly any of the circuits pay that much.”

“Five thousand,” the fisherman repeats. “No. I can’t cheat the guys for $5000. No way.”

But the Devil has resources. “All right, then,” he says. “What if I give you a million dollars to cheat in the next tournament? No one needs to know. I’ve got small bills. You can open up a couple of accounts around town and no one will be the wiser.”

The fisherman wavers. Glancing around to see if anyone is listening, he leans forward and says sheepishly, “I guess I might cheat for a $ million dollars.”

The Devil looks pleased. “Very good,” he responds. “Now, let me ask you again. Would you cheat to win a tournament for $100?”

The fisherman is flabbergasted. “Wait a minute,” he blurts. “You just offered me a million dollars to cheat. What’s with the hundred bucks?”

“We already know you’re a cheater,” the Devil says knowingly. “Now we’re just negotiating the price.”