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There's a popular slogan in Alcoholics Anonymous: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." Sounds perfectly reasonable -- unless you're completely obsessed. Well, Burke has met his share of obsessives and strangely enough, they all have one thing in common, the desire to catch the world's biggest largemouth bass and break a record that has stood since 1932.
The more delicate trout has served as literary inspiration for years, but the more "inferior" bass were "sought after by uncouth Southerners…[and] backwoods rubes hiding in their outhouses," writes Burke. Technically not even a bass, the largemouth is just an overgrown sunfish, indigenous to Florida but now lurking in a lake near you (if you live in any state except Alaska). But bass fishing today is "where NASCAR was ten years ago," and some have even begun to refer to the $12 billion industry as BASSCAR.
So who are these anglers, looking to hook a portly fish topping 22 lbs., 4 oz.? They're men who fish every spare minute, madly in love with the chase (and with the sunburned necks to prove it), men who throw away marriages and families, who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to "grow" the record-breaking poisson. Like all great journalists, Burke (an avid fisherman himself) lets these crazy characters tell the story themselves -- would that it were just a big ol' fish tale. (Summer 2005 Selection)