Hot Water, a tepid title, traces the antics of the Bass Commandos, a team of lovable Southern good ol' boys who form a ''parapiscine strike unit engaged in global bass suppression.'' Language like this can be funny, and Don Wallace has an excellent ear for America's fascination with technology, television, and hype.
Too bad Wallace didn't stick to fishing and let the novel zip along like a Smokey and the Bandit fish story with a big bass tournament for a crescendo. Instead, Water is clouded by too many other issues. There's a subplot involving a contra con man raising money for Nicaraguan freedom fighters and a somewhat better diversion concerning Coca-Cola's decision to change its soft- drink formula.
Hot Water is at its best when it stays on the surface or probes just below, searching for smallmouth fighting bass. These critters reside in inland lakes, not oceans or fast-running streams in Upper Michigan; no need to look for white whales or symbolic trout. Larger game, like complex emotions and big- ticket thematic items, are beyond Wallace's sonar equipment. C+