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Sportfishing

From The Tackle Box

The Screamin’ Drag

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the song that changed everything.

It was 1980, and my family was taking a vacation to the Sunshine State. I had just finished the school year and was excited to go on my first airplane ride. The flight was very cool, but even more awesome was when my dad, my brother, Chip, and myself did some fishing out of Fort Lauderdale after several days with the mouse up in Orlando.

We caught a fair number of kingfish (an exotic species for a ten-year-old from New York who was used to fluke and bluefish), but after fishing we stopped in a nearby tackle store and bought some locally made dolphin lures. These things looked like rigs from outer space compared to the cedar plugs and squids I’d seen in the Northeast. They had these ornate and colorful beads running through them and hooks that reflected light like flawless diamonds. I didn’t know if they’d catch fish, but I was hooked.

I couldn’t wait to get home and go fishing.

Up until this point in my angling career, I wasn’t allowed to go with my dad on offshore excursions because, as my mom would say, “He’s too small.” I think she meant young, but I never got tall either. (Maybe she was clairvoyant.) Thankfully, my father thought I was finally big enough, and shortly after returning from Florida, he took Chip and me out to troll our new-fangled dolphin lures.

I recall that the midsummer morning was downright steamy as dad got us out of bed well before the sun. After a short drive to the marina in Point Lookout, New York, I ambled down the dock to load our gear onboard. We were really headed offshore, and my heart began to race. Even though dad had me out fishing since I was two years old, this day felt different.

After what seemed like an eternity of traveling, we found good water. With a six-rod spread behind the boat—each armed with an imported lure—we trolled the ocean. And we trolled. And well, we trolled. But late in the afternoon, it finally happened.

First one rod went down, and drag peeled off line lightning quick. Then a second rod doubled over. Pretty soon, all six rods were hooked up, and we didn’t have enough anglers to catch all of whatever were on the end of the lines. The reels’ sang out in unison. It was the greatest tune I’d ever heard. It was the sound of angling success. We had found the fish.

My poor dad had a crew that offered a combined fighting weight of about 140 pounds, and he did his best to get belts on us and keep us from getting pulled overboard as we fought small tuna after small tuna.

We’d redeploy the spread after each attack and instantly get covered up again. After about a two-hour frenzy and with weary arms, a weary dad, and four out of six of those fancy new lures donated to Davey Jones’s locker, we set a course for home, both elated and exhausted.

As I write this, I can’t believe it’s been 31 years since that day. I’ve chased fish offshore ever since, too. In fact, that day helped lead me to my career choice. And I’ll never get tired of the hunt or the sound of success—the song of the screamin’ drag.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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