Bonefishing with Bob Knight

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Photos by Billy Black

Here Be Dragons

Bimini isn’t very big, but it gets even smaller when Bob Knight comes to town to do some bonefishing

Bob Knight fishing

Bob Knight is being too direct. The legendary basketball coach is throwing flies at bonefish on the morning of the first day of a three-day fishing trip to Bimini, and he is casting too fast, too hard. The proverbially skittish bonefish — the favorite meal of every toothy, scary thing that lurks beneath these paradisal waters — hunker together in small groups in the gin-clear flats, maddeningly close to the boat. But each time Knight casts, his line slaps the water, and his fly lands with too big a splash.

Knight’s nickname in college was Dragon, and right now, standing tall on the bow of the boat in the bright, hot sun, his leader licking fiercely at the water’s surface like a flame, he looks the part. And the fish are running scared. They skitter in every direction, fast as can be, earning them their moniker: the gray ghost. Their mortal fear is palpable. I wouldn’t wish being a bonefish on my worst enemy.

Our guide, Bonefish Tommy, preaches to Knight from high up on the pulpit of his skiff, his voice thick with consternation and the musical lilt of the islands. “You’ve got to come in more gentle, Baw-bee. Lay it up over the top and drop it down nice and soft, like a … like a parachute!” He pleads. “You don’t want to scare the fish. They scare real easy, Baw-bee.” Knight may or may not hear him. But he definitely isn’t listening. (That will become a running theme of my time with Knight, trying to guess if the 74-year-old hasn’t heard me or is simply ignoring what I said.)

Later, Knight — a seasoned fly fisherman with more than five decades of experience — will say that the reason his trajectory was too flat is because he is used to wading into the water instead of casting from a boat. He’s waded for bonefish in the Turks and Caicos five or six times, he reminds our group on multiple occasions, and each time he caught more fish than he knew what to do with. But today Knight is getting skunked. And the great man is not happy.

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This article originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Anglers Journal, available here

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