Friday, June 7, 2019

Confidence & Luck

Long before the first horseshoe crab bumped my wading boot this spring, I was wandering the isles of the New England Saltwater Fishing Show in Providence. I was there helping friends man their booth for Game On!—an up-and-coming lure company. As saltwater shows go, this is the big kahuna in our area. It’s a who’s who of the industry and its timing is ideal at the end of winter when anglers are itching for spring fishing around the corner. With an impressive selection of gear, tackle, and plenty of show deals, it’s a good opportunity to stock up for the coming season.

During downtime we took turns browsing the booths. It would’ve been easy to burn a few grand in mere minutes if I had it, but my line in the sand was $50. A sucker for wooden plugs that I don’t really need, I made it a few yards before dropping half of it on a mini, flat-bottomed pencil popper. I showed constraint over the next few isles until stumbling upon something a little more practical for my surfcasting needs—a bin of custom bucktail jigs made by Peace Token Fishing Tackle out of Cape May. The 3/8 oz. ones in chartreuse and pink screamed weakfish; my preferred size and color patterns for the elusive species that arrive in Long Island Sound around moon tides each spring. Still two months from their trial run, I was confident these jigs were catchers.

Fast forward through a crazy wet spring to mid-May and my first dedicated squeteague outing of the year. With wind whipping onshore and just one day removed from heavy rain, I could’ve should’ve turned around when I saw the deserted parking lot. A friend leaving as I rolled up confirmed it was dead out there, but I had come this far already and tossed my new jigs in tea-colored water for a half hour to no avail. The following night I returned and the couple tides in between had cleaned the water, yet the line of anglers remained sparse. I guess that happens when water temps are behind schedule and no weakfish reports have flooded social media. I welcomed the elbow room.

Despite an overflowing plug bag on my shoulder, the chartreuse Peace Token was the only offering I threw that night. I broke into my remaining stash of Uncle Josh pork rinds to sweeten the deal. The jig and pig combo looked tempting in the water. It didn’t cast as far as an SP Minnow or Mag Darter, but it casted far enough. The confidence was there, but so was lady luck. A couple dozen guys were out that night and for two hours of the incoming tide I didn’t see anything caught save for a sea robin. Then, after what felt like a thousand casts, there was life on the end of my line. As soon as my jig hit the water, something ate it on the drop. By the distinct headshakes, I knew what I had on and backed it up gingerly on the exposed sand. Derrick snapped a shot to document the moment and I released the fish, but knowing they tend to show in waves we were quick to get back out there.

That was it though; one and done and lucky as hell. That weakfish wasn’t big enough to earn the tiderunner nickname, but it was my best one to date. A beautiful fish and a rare one to me. Of course I returned on another high incoming soon after. A thunderstorm had just passed through and, for the first time I can remember, I was the only angler out there. The water was dirty, recent reports poor, and, I’ll admit, I wasn’t confident. It turns out I wasn’t lucky either as I didn’t even get a bump.

It helps when anglers are confident in their spot, their gear, and their offering. Some guys will tell you confidence is one of the more important aspects of angling. But it also helps to get lucky once in a while. When the stars and moon align and you are both confident and lucky, special things can happen—like catching your personal best weakfish on an otherwise lackluster night.