I bounced my purple plastic worm through the green-tinted water anticipating the possibility that at any second the fishing pole might be ripped from my hands. My palms were sweaty, and I fought the urge to strangle the foam handle. I knew I needed to relax. The tension I felt could cost me The Big One.
Landing the big fish is about feel. You have to feel the lure sliding through the water. You have to feel the nibble on the bait so you know when it’s time to set the hook. You have to feel the strain on the line so it doesn’t break as the fish is running for its life.
So I relaxed as much as I could, but remained vigilant…and it happened. A massive fish hit my bait with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball crashing into the side of a condemned building, Within a breath, it had run more than 150 feet from the boat. The pounding of my heart sounded like a kettle drum in my ears but I was screaming in my mind, “Be patient!” Slowly I started to crank the reel, dragging what felt like a truck tire toward the boat. After what seem like hours (probably more like 5 minutes) my avatar reached into the water and hoisted from the water an exhausted 36.8 pound stripped bass.
I say “avatar” because I was fishing as a virtual person, on a virtual lake, using virtual bait, driving a virtual boat and landing a virtual fish. But it was a BIG virtual fish…and it didn’t get away. (An avatar is not really like the movie, but is a digitally generated image that sorta looks like you – or looks like you wish you looked). My virtual me went on to harvest 83 pounds of virtual bass to win the virtual tournament on virtual Lake Amistad, Texas. I won a virtual crank bait and a virtual $25 gift certificate to a virtual Bass Pro Shops.
This virtual world is contained inside the Bass Pro Shops’ “The Strike” video game my dad has for his XBox. It comes with a stubby little fishing pole with a spinning reel. You push a button, draw the pole back and fling it like a real cast. I had so many “perfect casts” I lost track. I was a fish-catching machine. I could tell my virtual me even enjoyed riding in the boat.
And that is about where the similarities ended between the virtual experience and the real-life experience my dad and I had drifting along the bank of the Tennessee River near Pickwick Landing. I for the most part cast my line to within about 30 feet of where I was actually trying to land it. I caught one little bass that a friend of mine said in response to the picture he saw of my prize: “We don’t want to see the live bait we want to see the fish!” (A good line, crushing, but a really good line.)
But the virtual game isn’t perfect. It can simulate a lake, a fish, a boat, a catch but it can’t simulate actually being on a real lake in a real boat and catching a real fish. It can’t simulate spitting sunflower seed hulls, jabbing your finger on a hook or getting worm poop on your hands when you thread the squirmy things as bait. It can’t simulate sunburn, the serenity of drifting along or the suspension of time.
It’s biggest shortcoming? It can’t simulate real time together with your dad, which I wouldn’t trade for even 83 pounds of real fish and that was the best part of having gone fishin’ – for real.