Issue: April 2003
Wooly What?

I have a theory about how fishing lures work: Joe Rockfish is swimming along when he sees this neon-green squiggly thing skittering by. "What the heck is that?" he asks his buddy. "That, my friend," his buddy says, "is a Green Weenie." Joe Rockfish laughs so hard that the Green Weenie, hook and all, falls into his mouth. Voila, he's an entree.

The Sputterbuzz, the Magnum Hellbender, the Boy Howdy, the Creek Chub Knuckle Head-these linguistic contortions (all fishing lure trade names, if you haven't guessed) deserve their own trapeze in Webster's. And while the Thunder Bug, Timber Doodle and Hammerin' Hare are fine examples of the genre, for pure cognitive dissonance nothing beats the Woolly Booger.

My first encounter with Woolly Boogers came on a day when I expected nothing so exotic. Woolly caterpillars, maybe-except it was spring, not fall. Woolly eyebrows-my favorite facial feature on a seafaring man. Woolly sweaters-okay, if there's no Polartec nearby. But Woolly Boogers? Although I have a six-year-old son who is simultaneously fascinated and appalled by boogers, and therefore I'm accustomed to a kind of running commentary on the secret lives of boogers in general, Woolly Boogers was a completely unknown concept to me, an unimaginable union of two words. Until one day on Mattawoman Creek.

Kaeo and I were picnicking on the docks by the public boat ramps. He had made short work of his PB&J and was progging the shoreline, looking for treasure, when he stopped in his tracks to stare at a positively Hollywood truck, trailer and boat rig that came rolling in. Though the sky was fitful and cloud-torn, we squinted as we ogled this Dolly Parton on wheels. Light itself seemed to emanate from the million tiny flecks of glitter embedded in the paint. The boat registration was Wisconsin. Clearly a pro, in for a tournament. The driver wheeled the rig in a graceful arc and expertly backed it down the ramp-a feat I place on a par with tightrope walking or lion taming. Myself, I become terminally female whenever I try this, inevitably and hopelessly folding the rig into a mortifying letter L.

"Nice boat," Kaeo said admiringly to the fellow as he quickly floated his flat-decked bass boat and tied her off. "Thanks," he answered. "You like fishin'?" Kaeo immediately launched into his best fish story about the huge (eight-inch) bass he caught at his grandmother's house, and that was all it took-the two of them were sympatico. Just before he cast off, the fisherman pulled out a plastic bag stuffed with something the color of caramel, sprinkled with what looked like flecks of coarsely ground black pepper. He signed his name to the bag with a red Sharpie and handed it over to Kaeo. "Here you go," he said. "Try these Woolly Boogers next time. You'll hook an even bigger one. And look for me on Bassmasters." And he was off, the Lone Angler, into the windblown river.

Woolly Boogers. Is that a bass I hear laughing? I rest my case.