Baits are in the water and eyes are scanning the flat lines and sonars, anxiously awaiting that key bite. Everyone aboard has a job to do, whether it’s manning the rod, running the boat, clearing teasers or guiding the chair. At stake is nearly $2 million in overall prize money in this 19th annual sport-fishing contest and the 88 boats competing leave nothing to chance.
Knowledge, skill and teamwork aren’t the only factors in play, however. Luck is often involved in winning and it takes many forms. A sampling of boats before Thursday’s start reveals the level of superstition among the tourney fleet.
“Before we put lines in, I like to take a sip of beer and sacrifice the rest over the transom for Mother Gulf,” says Zack Redman, the mate aboard Pearl, a 48 Viking that calls Orange Beach home.
Angler Zack Seltzer of Panama City Beach, fishing on Evil Eyes, says they always make sure their mate takes a shower before leaving the dock so he’s fresh and ready for action. But Michael Pittman, the mate on another Orange Beach competitor, Skin Deep, doesn’t have any lucky charms or special rituals. “We just go fishin’,” he admits.
Special toys are popular charms. Capt. Ruston Rood on Single Barrel, a 60 Hatteras from Mexico Beach, takes along a little Yoda bear that his daughter gave him. His counterpart on Breathe Easy, Patrick Ivie, has a blue shark blow-up pool toy that was resting comfortably in the fighting chair as mates Case Brundage and Corey Hurst made final preparations. Ivie had the inflatable Jaws when his team won a state high school championship and it’s still holding air. The team caught an 800-pound fish that was mutilated by a shark during the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic earlier in the season, so they are also hoping theirs will ward off a similar outcome this time.
Born2Run is another boat that counts on a stuffed toy to bring it luck. Lisa Foster is co-owner of the 72 Viking based in nearby Pensacola Beach.
“Someone gave us a little bunny with a sailfish necklace and it sits on the back of the mezzanine every trip,” she explains. “Myles [Capt. Myles Colley] named him The Dude. We had to rescue him from the dog chewing a few times, so he’s a little rough. But he sits up there and looks over us while we fish.”
So whether it’s whimsical toys, beer or money sacrificed overboard or special zany dances in the cockpit, there’s no shortage of lucky charms and rituals among these boats. Do they work? They certainly can’t hurt and in this sport—like baseball—you never mess with a streak.