Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


When you're 15-years-old and own a Schwinn 10-speed in July, nothing is impossible.

Like finding Gray's Bay, six miles away from our suburban Twin Cities home - and fish that strike on bare hooks.

How we discovered it, I'll never know, but once best-buddy Dobbs & I did, it immediately became our most popular expedition.

Sure, the route did run right past the Minnetonka Mills Dairy Queen, but how many hot fudge sundaes can you eat? FISHING was what really pushed us to pedal all those miles with rod and reel balanced on handlebars.

The route took us up Cedar Lake Road, past the elementary school, over the Hwy 18 overpass, and past the beautiful country homestead that I swore I'd one day own. Then it was up the gear-breaking hill to Hwy 61, and the cool, downhill coast all the way to the Dairy Queen's parking lot.

After the mandatory sundae, we followed Minnetonka Blvd. until it ran under I-494, where we turned right into a series of side street shortcuts running alongside Lake Minnetonka until we hit the Gray's Bay Bait Shop.

And the fish that struck bare hooks.

It was amazing. Even though the bait shop walls were adorned with photos of Walleye, Muskies, and Northerns, our target was those so-easy-to-catch 2 oz. sunfish.

It was a mystery alright. We did nothing to disguise the hooks, other than drop them into a school of the small "Sunnies" with a big plunk. The splash would cause them to swarm and inevitably, the ensuing frenzy would cause the fish to bite our naked hooks as fast as we could pull them out.

Wasn't it obvious to the fish that biting our hooks would be a fatal mistake? Especially as we pulled out one friend after another right before their eyes?

Evidently not.

It was my first lesson in the danger of following the crowd.

The fish mimicked the actions of the others around them until all were in such a frenzy they'd eat anything - even if it killed them.

Hmmm... How many naked hooks are we biting just because of everyone else?

The perils of drugs and alcohol seem like obvious "naked hooks." Yet so many in our culture, willingly sink their teeth into these vices after witnessing friends and neighbors doing the same.

Then there are the subtle hooks. The clothes we wear. The possessions we buy. The activities we select. The jobs we choose.

Do we embrace them because we want to, or because of the swarm of others doing the same?

Back on the bay, as the cool morning relinquished itself to the midday heat, the fish would stop schooling. Once we threw our hooks to the single fish we'd spot in the shallow water, there were no takers. They'd swim up to the hook, take a quick look, see it for what it was - and split.

Once free of the group mentality, the fish were able to make the decision that was in their best interests.

Dobbs and I didn't realize it then, but as it turns out - WE were the ones in school.

I only wish we'd have learned the lesson sooner.


Mike Johnson made the journey from jobs to freelance writer, to entrepreneur, to passive income and early retirement at 52.
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