Keeping Score

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Here Be Dragons—Bonefishing with Bob Knight, By Kevin Koenig (continued)
Photos by Billy Black

Kevin Koenig and Bob Knight

Keeping Score

From Knight’s mouth flows a constant stream of stories. Some entertaining. Some insightful. Many both. He is able to plumb a seemingly fathomless trove of life experiences to make his point, or just to make people laugh. Who else can say that they got over on Michael Jordan, busting his chops in an Olympic locker room? Or went golfing with President Gerald Ford? “We’re a good pair,” Ford told him, “everyone’s afraid of you, and no one will say no to me!” Or singing the “Marine’s Hymn” to Ted Williams as they fished a stream together, and cracking up as Williams, the Marine fighter pilot, would snap to attention and salute. Ted Williams by the way, that guy — if Bob Knight is one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met, Ted Williams must have been concocted in a lab somewhere using the DNA of Cary Grant and Zeus himself. At one point in the beginning of our trip, Knight and legendary angler Stu Apte (who was also along for the ride) traded stories about Williams for what seemed like hours. That was all they wanted to talk about. And I started to wonder who exactly I was there to write about.

But for all the triumphant stories Knight has to tell, the Olympic victory, the three national championships at Indiana, and the one as a player he won at Ohio State, it’s the losses that stick with him the most. In the beginning of the trip, as we pulled into the Bimini customs dock in our Tropic Ocean Airways seaplane, the thunderous engines died down to a quiet whir, and all I could hear was Knight in the back of the plane telling a story. “I can still see it just clear as day,” he said, “the kid was off in the wing, and he shot the ball as time ran out, and it glanced, I mean just touched, off the backboard, and went in. And we lost. Yep. 23-22.” The score jarred me to attention. I found out later he was talking about a game that happened in 1962, when he was the assistant coach at Cuyahoga Falls High School in Ohio.

Later on I’d ask him how many Final Fours he took his Indiana team to. “Four or five,” he grumbled, “or whatever it was.” (It was five.)

By the middle of our second day in Bimini, bonefishing was a losing proposition for Knight. We had switched guides from the first day, from Bonefish Tommy to Eagle Eye Fred, but no one was spotting many fish. And when we did see the bones, they were mostly in the shallows, in maybe a foot or so of water, which made them even more wary of Knight’s line whipping at the water. He never did quite get the cast down, I don’t think. He was a little out of practice, he admitted. He had worked on tying knots for hours the night before the trip. The ins and outs, the slips and ties, all beginning to fade from memory. “You forget stuff when you get older, boy,” he said to me as he labored in the bow of the boat, hunched over one of his knots. “That’s what you get to look forward to.”

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

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