A buddy of mine loaded a new app on my television; one sure to expand my outdoor programming choices. Truthfully, I hadn’t given much thought to my lineup lately. Like any big kid, I was captivated by streaming TV when I first ditched cable and opened my eyes to endless choices. But, in reality, the world of responsibility, coupled with the appeal of springtime fishing, haskept the tube turned off lately.
But my wife hit the hay early last night, leaving me with a half bowl of popcorn and an extra hour in my schedule, so I thought I’d thumb around a bit. At first, the new app was the same as the rest: a bunch of regional shows with no appeal, mixed in with a program about some famous hunter I’d never heard of.
But then one menu opened another, taking me to a once-familiar place: "On the Water" with Hank Parker.
Now you all have seen the show, I’m sure; many of you still keep up with Hank on a regular basis. I wish I had.
Immediately, the show absorbed me. A too-long work week coupled with a few unforeseen challenges in planning an upcoming trip, left me aggravated, likely leading to my wife’s departure and my predicament. But Hank didn’t care …
We left the dock at first light and were casting within minutes. Somewhere, a guy whistled the first few lines of a theme song.
In the early light, I could see the water spray out of Hank’s reel each time he hauled the spinnerbait toward a likely target. Not surprisingly, it took me back to the times I would watch him in the later stages of his competitive career, slinging a big-bladed Hawg Caller masterfully with a pistol-grip rod and a round Abu reel, long out of style, but proven functional.
A sharp hookset jarred me back to reality and Hank quickly subdued the fish and brought him aboard. Not a monster, but a chunky 3-pounder. Fifteen minutes later Hank would catch another - his fourth on the day, while I had none. “Oh, I wish so bad you could catch one like this,” he said.
I didn’t care.
We quietly worked spinners and worms through stump fields and sunken treetops, occasionally catching a stocky fish that reflected the productivity of our private fishing hole. Hank reflected on the stoic nature of a big heron that watched us fish. Winds were light and the sky was blue. There were no jet-skis.
By the end of the day, we’d catch a dozen fish, Hank and me. Somewhere in the middle, he’d again convince me that the secret resided in his lure, and I needed to have one. A man couldn’t argue with facts.
The show ended and I found myself back again in the living room. Reality set in, and I figured I should get to bed; give myself the best chance to deal with tomorrow’s challenges. My wife was fast asleep, while a tired old dog took up most of my spot, so I did my best to crawl under the covers.
I remembered years ago, when I had worked with Hank Parker as he filmed a show on Lake St. Clair. I’ll never forget how demanding it was; pre-daylight ’til dark were the normal hours, and there was far less kidding around than what we see on TV when the fish are hitting.
It was made clear that Parker was a single-minded perfectionist in his television career - the same way he was in his competitive days - and would settle for nothing less than matching focus and dedication from his film crew.
Today, Parker’s show continues to be a hit, his endorsement and R&D contributions are above nearly any in the fishing industry and he’s expanded to include a main share in the hunting world; all while acting as a leading role model, family man and Christian.
But last night, Hank Parker was none of that to me. He was the partner who texted me at midnight to say he was ready to go fishing. He was the buddy on the front deck competing for the foot pedal, and the one who raided the cooler early, leaving me the soggy sandwich. And, above all, he was the one who said “See you tomorrow” when I dropped him off at the end of the day.
Somewhere, a guy sang a few lines: “The house needs painting, the grass needs mowing… where’s he at?”
We’ve gone fishin’.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)