Going for the big one.
T.C. helped him bait the hook, then Dillon dropped his line into the water.
Dillon smiled at his big brother. "What'll you buy if you win the contest, T.C.?"
"That green skateboard in the window of Oshman's Sporting Goods Store," said T.C. "And don't say 'if.' I am going to win."
This was an important day, one that T.C. had been looking forward to all year. Today was the Marble Falls Junior-Division Fishing Contest. Waiting for some lucky boy or girl at noon was a check for $75. That check is mine this year, T.C. thought.
"I'll buy walkie-talkies if I win," Dillon said. "You can play with me, T.C. We could be secret agents."
"Thanks, but I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you, Dill. I've already caught five fish, and one of them is big enough to win. Maybe when you're older, you'll get your chance."
Time passed, and the boys fished. Dillon talked and talked. His chatter began to wear on T.C.
"Haven't you gotten a bite yet?" T.C. interrupted. Dillon still hadn't caught any fish, but T.C. was up to seven.
"Not yet," Dillon said.
"How's that minnow doing?" T.C. asked.
"Well, reel it in and check on it," T.C. snapped.
Dillon reeled in his line. At the end hung an empty fishhook.
"Honestly, Dill, how many times do I have to tell you to check your bait?" T.C. scolded.
"Maybe I should try that yellow jig instead of a minnow. What do you think?" Dillon asked.
"I think you can forget about winning," T.C. answered.
Dillon puckered his face as he took the yellow jig from his tackle box and put it on his line. He had a few nibbles, but each time, he was too slow in jerking his pole, and the fish would spit out the hook.
T.C. started to feel sorry for Dillon. It was 11:30. Only a half hour left. Surely he should be able to catch one tiny fish, T.C. thought. Then he had an idea.
"Dill, maybe a three-barbed hook will work," T.C. said. "Why don't you go ask Mike if you can borrow one of his?" T.C.'s friend Mike had just bought a bunch the day before. "He's at the other end of the pier."
"OK," said Dillon. He laid his pole on the pier and walked over to Mike's usual fishing spot.
T.C. reeled in Dillon's line. He reached into the bucket of fish he had caught and pulled out a small perch, just big enough to be a keeper. T.C. stuck it on Dillon's line, then dropped it back into the water.
As Dillon was walking back, T.C. called, "Hey, Dill, I think you caught something!"
Dillon hurried over and dropped the hook into his tackle box. He grabbed his pole and tried to wrench it up. Nothing happened.
"I think it's snagged," Dillon said. Then the pole jerked in his hands. "Yikes, T.C.! He's pulling me in!" The line screamed off his reel like kite string in a storm. Dillon braced his feet against the pilings.
What a weakling, thought T.C. He casually reached over to help and couldn't believe how strong the pull was. "What in the world?"
"Told ya he was big!" Dillon yelled.
"Well, don't let him get away!" said T.C. "Play him out!"
When the fish finally lay flapping on the pier, both boys were panting with exhaustion. T.C. gasped, "That's got to be the biggest catfish in the lake. I don't understand. It must have swallowed the whole fi--" He stopped in mid-sentence.
"Swallowed the what?" Dillon asked. Then he glanced at T.C.'s bucket of fish.
"Swallowed the hook just right," T.C. finished.
The boys made it to the judging platform with only minutes to spare. There were some nice catches, but they were no match for Dillon's.
When all the entries had been weighed, the judge announced, "This year's winner is Dillon Burnett! Dillon, please come up for your ribbon and prize money."
Dillon proudly walked up to the platform. T.C. tried to feel happy for him. At least one of us won, he thought.
The judge handed Dillon the check and shook his hand. "What will you buy with your winnings?" he asked.
Dillon didn't hesitate for a moment. "The green skateboard in Oshman's window," he answered.
T.C.'s mouth dropped open.
"And tell me, young man," said the judge. "How did you manage to catch such a big catfish?"
T.C. held his breath.
"Nothing to it," said Dillon, flashing T.C. a grin. "It's all in knowing what bait to use."