I’m not typically a believer in the bad luck mantras so many outdoors enthusiasts enjoy. I’ve heard so many, in fact, it seems the sentence, “It’s bad luck to …” can be finished with almost any phrase, so it is with much trepidation that I come hat in hand to confess I've recently become reacquainted with two of the most effective and self evident of these nuggets of dubious wisdom.
The first, imparted by friend and mentor Bobby Cleveland, says it’s bad luck to catch a fish on your first cast of the day, doubly so if it’s the first cast with a new rod or reel. I combined all three recently when I put a new reel I’d been given for Christmas on a new rod. I had set the drag where I wanted it, fiddled the spool tension and made a half-cast with a spinnerbait about 15 yards into a pond. After I fiddled the spool tension a bit more I was reeling in to then begin fishing and caught a bass in the two-pound range.
Laughing nervously, I quickly lipped and released the fish and rushed my next cast, producing a backlash the size of Bobby Petrino’s ego. I patiently picked the backlash out, taking the punishment as my due and, on my next cast, the whole left side of the brand new reel popped off, and the spool and axle fell out on the ground.
Fast forward a couple weeks later and I’m taking my 5-year-old to a fishing rodeo, the kind where two-pound catfish by the hundreds have been stocked into a pond and await easy capture. Enroute I actually worried the experience might spoil him – anyone who catches 10 pounds of catfish on five casts of a hook and worm can only look forward to slower days ahead. This was on my mind when I bought the stringer, a faux pas made worse by the fact it was the longest one the bait shop had on the shelf.
Moments later we joined youngsters by the score as they lined the bank of the rodeo lake, ready for a feverish assault on catfish that had been sequestered for their use. The horn blew announcing the start of the melee, lines were wet, worms were drowned and, nothing happened. For the first half hour, under perfect conditions and with aquatic subjects that had never seen a hook, nobody caught a fish. At all. One rope stringer shut down an entire fishery.
Another hour went by and a small handful of kids in the extreme far corner of the impoundment most distant from us began to pull in a few fish, but only them and only there.
I quietly got my son, my stringer and myself out of there, hopeful the bad luck would follow me and relieve the innocent. I needn’t have worried. Through the rest of the day I: scraped a half-acre of hide off my left shin at another fishing location, tried to crank a leaf blower without turning on the switch and thoroughly flooded it, lost a pair of sunglasses at a T-ball practice I was conducting, then got sprayed in the eye with silly string by my wife who said she was aiming for my hair. This last part might not have been related to the stringer.
Hopefully the spell has now abated but, like many of those with whom I hunt and fish, I’m not taking any chances. Any firm doubters are welcome to a nice new stringer, free to a good home.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.