Sam Venable 

So your clothes dryer eats socks? Piffle! Big deal. Everybody’s dryer does. I estimate ours has ingested at least five dozen — one at a time, of course — through the years.

But I also hold title to another item with special dietary needs. It’s a bass boat that eats pliers.

Not just any pliers. Instead, they gotta be needle-nosed—the correct term in professional tool circles is “long-nosed”—before my boat begins licking its chops.

I’ve found it necessary to use needle-nosed pliers more and more often as I age.

For example, the exact location of a buried hook in a fish’s mouth is more difficult for me to see these days. (Perhaps because tackle manufacturers are making smaller hooks?) Also, I’m a bit shakier in my golden years, meaning other treble hooks on a lure have a way of finding my flesh as I attempt to extract the ones with a toe-hold. The task is decidedly easier, and far less perilous to my hide, with long-reachers.

I’ve had my boat on the water three times this spring. All have been short trips. I launch at sunrise and am usually headed home, trailered boat in tow, by noon.

In those brief journeys, my boat already has eaten two pairs of the aforementioned slender-schnoozolas. That doesn’t count the two pairs it gobbled last year.

This gluttony is as amazing as it is frustrating.

One minute, I’ll fetch pliers from the dry storage locker and place them at my feet on the deck. An eye-blink later—slurp!—they go down the hatch. I’m thinking about mounting a video camera onboard to capture this vicious attack.

Oh, and by “hatch” I mean as in throat, goozle, swallow-pipe. Not the nautical “hatch” as in the lid to a compartment on the boat. If it were that easy, all I’d have to do is reach back into the locker and retrieve the wandering pliers.

Nope. I’m convinced the boat eats them—and once the chewing begins, those babies are history.

Before you ask, the answer is no: They haven’t bounced overboard as I motor from one fishing spot to another. We’re talking a chunk of heavy metal, not a foam coffee cup or a piece of paper. 

If they took flight as I was roaring along and bouncing over waves, they’d likely bust through the windshield and rip off my head.

Also no: They haven’t accidentally ricocheted off the deck and plopped into the drink when I drop them after use. If so, I would’ve heard the clink and splash.

The only logical explanation is that the boat has eaten them. Thus, I’m constantly visiting the store and replenishing my nautical pantry.

A few days ago, I deposited four pairs of needle-nosed pliers into my shopping cart. Three were cheapies from the hardware department; one was a high-dollar unit from sporting goods. Back home, I dropped ’em all into the boat’s storage locker.

Fat chance they’ll ever see duty. Given my boat’s voracious appetite—buuurp!—they probably won’t survive long enough to reach the lake.


Sam Venable is an author, entertainer, and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at
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