The hunt for fins and bills is on. Ninety-one boats made their way through Destin Pass Thursday and are now churning south and southwest in search of long, fat blue marlin, tuna the size of Mini-Coopers, Day-Glo dolphin and striped speedsters. More than $2 million in prize money is on the line in the 2018 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, so as skilled as these crews are, many will be doing rituals, eating special foods and making sacrifices in order to draw the winning fish into the spread.
“I’d sacrifice a live chicken if I had to,” says mate Dave Woodley of Pensacola, Florida. Woodley is part of the crew on Donny D III, a 48 Tiara. “We once had a mate bite the head off a live ballyhoo offshore to trigger a bite. It seemed to work. We caught and released a blue right afterwards.”
Capt. Stan Blackman and mate Lance Hightower aboard One More say they take sips of Chili Guaro, a spicy Costa Rican cocktail, to try to conjure up a strike. Blackman also says he’s been known to carve pineapples into various shapes for good luck charms.
“When you’ve got the doldrums, you do anything out there to mix it up,” he explains.
Mate Rodney Johnson, on Team Supreme, a local Destin ringer, tries to buy bites. He throws money over the boat’s transom and into the Gulf waters.
“I use whatever I have in my wallet. Most of the time it’s $10 or $5 bills. But $1 will do. You’ve got to pay for your bills.”
Capt. George Gill, another Destin veteran who runs Flat Dangerous, a 64 Viking, isn’t superstitious at all.
“We don’t have any rituals or charms. We just go fishing. You do need to sharpen your hooks, though. That’s Rule #1,” he adds with a laugh.
Rocky and Laurie Jones, owners of Reel Addiction, a 56 Viking that won the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic earlier in June with nearly an 800-pound blue, are just the opposite. The pair and their crew do all kinds of rituals to maintain the angling karma.
“We’re very superstitious,” Laurie explains. “Of course, no bananas are allowed on board. Rocky bought a package of Big Texas cinnamon rolls and we ate those the last two tournaments. So we’ve got some more for this weekend. We wear certain shirts and bathing suits that have been lucky in the past. I also wear a marlin charm necklace and so does one of the mates. We had an old set of life jackets on board the last two tournaments that we were going to replace, but Capt. Scooter made us keep them. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep the mojo going.”
Foreign cocktails, soaking currency, sweet pastries or voodoo magic. If it results in a six-figure catch, who is going to argue about logic?