A friend from the midsection of Florida was the world’s unluckiest fisherman for a while. We’ll call him Derek, because calling him Lucky would be cliché. And inaccurate.
When he tired of bumming rides offshore and had saved some money, Derek bought himself 24 feet and a fraction of wave-slicing fiberglass pushed by manhood-affirming horsepower.
The first time he launched that baby, he and a buddy spent most of a day fishing without catching a fish. Derek chalked up the empty sack to being more concerned with learning his new boat than filling the box.
For nearly a summer, however, his luck didn’t change, except for the odd rod bent by some unexpected fish from an unusual spot.
At the dock one afternoon, while emptying another ice chest that held only ice, he asked a charter captain what he could put on his boat to help him catch more fish. “GPS,” the skipper said. “Put you right on ’em.”
So Derek added the finest electronic navigation, and he learned his way to and from a few popular spots. Trouble was, he always seemed to arrive just as six boats left.
He asked more people what else could be added to a 24-foot boat with GPS to help it catch fish. Outriggers. Charts. Graphs. More rods and reels. Lures. The guy at the tackle store sold him a big livewell. And a friend at work suggested a half-tower. More lures. Rocket launcher. Downriggers.
And by the time he’d made all those additions, about two years’ worth, Derek was into that boat for almost half again the money he’d originally dropped.
It did look good in the slip, and on rare days, Derek and his buddies did well enough to feel proud at the cleaning table.
More often — most often — Derek and a shrinking list of partners limped home empty as a hustler’s promise. It seemed, and with good reason, that nothing he could put on that boat would help him catch fish.
Soon, Derek came to doubt himself as an angler. Some people are destined to make touchdowns and hit home runs, he’d conceded, and others to tote water onto the field during timeouts.
Derek had a sense of humor, though, and he was no quitter. He remained confident, sort of, that his fortune would change. He didn’t know how or when or where, but he believed there’d come a sign to guide him.
And it came, ironically, after one of his better days. Derek and two pals managed a nice box of fish for the table, and even released a pair of sailfish. He was revitalized.
Derek eased the boat into the marina, tucked snugly into the slip, then stepped back to take an admiring look.
“Good day?” a passerby asked casually.
“Great day,” Derek beamed. “I can’t think of anything else I could put on this boat to help me catch more fish.”
“I had a boat like that once,” the man noted. “Had everything on it too, but my luck didn’t really change until I put one more thing on her.”
“What’s that?” begged Derek, eager again.
“A ‘For Sale’ sign,” the man said. “Sold it years ago. Been hiring a charter skipper every month, tearing up the fish, and I still haven’t run out of money.”