The sparkle blue paint of the boat twinkled as the first rays of the summer sun cleared the horizon. Gentle rocking underneath could be felt as other boaters worked to get their craft and gear into the crowded water. Grace and Hope listened to the voices around them as they packed their ice chest. Although they were focused on hearing their number being called out, they couldn’t help but overhear occasional jabs at them.
“Fifty two,” a deep voice called out, “Hey, fifty two are you here?”
The deep voiced man on the shore had called the women’s boat number and Grace stopped unpacking her tackle long enough to answer back and start the trolling motor. Several attempts later, the motor started. Hope just hung her head down as the men all around them laughed. Grace and Hope were the only women in this year’s Homebuilder’s Bass Tournament. They had grown a pretty thick skin over the years and had earned a reputation for being competent custom homebuilders but fishing was a first for them. Their lead carpenter, Brian had dared them into entering and was even kind enough to lend them his boat.
“What a guy.” Grace thought.
As they ventured out into the Black Warrior River, the sunrise was peeking over the wateroaks along the shore. Grace noticed as she turned to grab her cup of coffee on the seat behind her, a bright blaze of gold on the edge of the boat.
“What’s that?” she asked Hope as she pointed to long gold bar on the boat.
Hope said confidently, “Oh, that’s the Golden Rule. Brian said it’s what we use to determine how long our fish is and how much it weighs.”
Grace remembered the tournament rule book mentioning a golden rule but she thought maybe they were referring to being nice to the other fishers. She grabbed the book and flipped it open.
“It says here we can’t turn in any fish at the weigh-in that is less than twelve inches.” Grace leaned over to look closer at the rule.
As the day wore on, Grace and Hope had caught about twenty bass but all were too small according to the rule book. Grace looked up at the sky with her hand shielding her eyes from the hot sun and prayed, “Dear Lord, please just let us catch one fish that is big.”
Moments later, Hope yelled out that she had a bite and it was a big one. Grace rushed on her hands and knees across the boat floor and got behind Hope. She wrapped her arms around Hope’s waist and pulled. The two women wrestled with that fish for about three solid minutes until it flew up out of the murky water with its mouth wide open. It was the biggest catfish they had ever seen. The line broke and the fish swam away as the women fell back into the boat laughing.
As they pulled their boat in at the last call of the tournament, they couldn’t stop smiling about the day’s events. Some of the men thought for sure the women had caught a boatload of bass because they were smiling so much. At the weigh-in, the judge called out Grace and Hope’s names and they happily declined they add nothing to weigh. The men looked relieved and then snorted loudly with friendly mocking.
Hope turned to Grace and said, “We may not have measured up as champion fishermen but nothing outweighs the fun we had today.”
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