The Worst Day Ever
Editor's note: The story that follows is not a work of fiction. This is a first-person account of true events. Names have been changed to protect the idiots. Oops...the innocent.
"A bad day fishing is better than a good day working."
Whoever came up with that saying obviously never experienced the nightmare of a fishing trip I endured about 3 years ago.
It all started when a buddy, we'll call him "Cliff," and I signed up for a Texas Redfish Series event in Port Aransas, Texas. I'd just gotten a new boat – a shallow-water poling skiff – a couple weeks before and we decided we were going to break it in properly by putting it to the test in a big-time tournament.
After a long and painfully unproductive day of pre-fishing, we hit the captain's meeting, paid our entry fees and headed back to the hotel to prepare our tackle and get some much-needed sleep before the big day. That's when we made our first mistake.
In all our nervous excitement we neglected one very important task in our preparation ritual. We didn't put gas in the boat.
The next morning we launched the boat, went through livewell inspection, docked in the harbor and waited for the sun to peek over the horizon so we could blast off to our fishing destination.
We went through our pre-launch checklist as we anxiously waited for the tournament director to start calling boat numbers.
Hooks sharpened? Check.
Drags tightened? Check.
Fresh line on the reels? Check.
Sunscreen applied? Check.
Gas in the boat? Check. Wait...uh-oh!
"Umm... dude," I stammered to Cliff in disbelief. "We're on 'E'! We forgot to put gas in the freakin' boat!"
"No way," Cliff replied. "Are you sure your gauge is working?"
"I'm sure. We pre-fished all day yesterday. Do you remember stopping at the gas station last night?"
About that time we heard the tournament director call for flight two over our VHF radio. We were in the second flight. Time to go.
Cliff: "Well, we're only fishing a few miles away. I say we go for it."
We blasted off through the wind-whipped Lydia Ann Channel and headed north with our fingers crossed, hoping the trickle of fuel we had in the tank would be enough to get us to our spot and back to weigh-in.
We pulled into our first spot 10 minutes later and started throwing topwaters to current eddies around the edges of mangrove islands. I was standing on the poling platform and casting off the back of the boat when I heard the sweetest sound in the world – braided line peeling off Cliff's spinning reel.
I turned around expecting to see Cliff bowed up on a keeper redfish, but something about the scene seemed odd. "Is it a big one?" I asked as Cliff continued the fight. "Do you need the net? Where's the fish? I can't see it."
"Look up," he replied. That's when I realized Cliff wasn't hooked up to a fish at all. Somehow he'd managed to wrangle a seagull in mid-flight - a very large, very angry seagull - which was now attached to the end of his rod like a kite.
Cliff reeled the bird into the cramped cockpit of the skiff and the epic battle began. The scene was a blur of feathers, wings and one big, sharp, pointy beak flailing violently in the bottom of the boat. This bird meant business.
Cliff threw his jacket over the bird and pounced on it with all the ferocity and none of the grace of a famished lion chasing down a wildebeest. After a 15-minute wrestling match Cliff reclaimed his topwater and our feathered friend was released to fly another day. I assure you, no birds were harmed in the making of this comical boat-bound blunder. Cliff, on the other hand, sustained a few minor injuries. Apparently, seagulls don't appreciate being lassoed. Who knew?
This story would be tragic enough if it ended right there, but remember, all this transpired in just the first 30 minutes of our tournament day. Keep reading. It gets worse.
(For maximum effect try reading the series of events below while the theme song from The Benny Hill Showplays in the background. - Ed.)
10:00 a.m. - We discover our 'A spot' is devoid of fish and decide to make a run. Just one problem...no gas. We plow through 3-foot waves and massive supertanker wakes on our way to the nearest marina. Almost die - twice. Fill up with $4.50 gas and head back out, destined for glory.
11:15 a.m. - I hear the sound of Cliff setting the hook, followed immediately by a giant splash. Turn around to see Cliff standing in neck-deep water. Yes, he fell off the boat. Yes, he severely bruised his ribs on the gunwale when he fell. No, he did not land the fish.
12:30 p.m. - I hook a solid fish that makes a lighting-fast run and peels off 10 yards of drag. "This is the one we're looking for," I yell to Cliff. Cliff hops off the poling platform and scurries to grab the net. Five seconds later our hopes are crushed as a trophy-class skipjack leaps three feet out of the water. Nice fish. Wrong species. Back to the drawing board.
1:00 p.m. - Cliff and I are standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the bow of the boat when we both look down and a see a school of fifty beautiful, bronze redfish swimming right at us. In an act of desperation we simultaneously pitch our gold spoons at the oncoming school. The spoons cross and tangle in mid-air. The redfish spook. We cuss.
1:30 p.m. - Run the new boat aground on a shell reef. Did you know fresh fiberglass makes a high-pitched squeaking sound as it peels off your hull? Well, it does.
2:00 p.m. - With no fish in the livewell we run to a nearby bridge to see if we can pull a red off one of the pilings on the outgoing tide. Cliff somehow manages to drop his rod in the water. I lunge at the rod as it sinks out of sight. "Got ya'!" As I lift the rod into the boat it snaps in my hand, leaving me with a palm full of graphite splinters. Injury? Check. Insult? Double check.
3:00 p.m. - We limp back to weigh-in tired, wet and fishless and swear to never fish another tournament again (we got over it and fished another tournament less than a month later).
1. Put gas in the boat. Idiot.
2. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to wrestle a seagull, wear safety glasses. They'll try to eat your eyeballs. You've been warned.
3. Put gas in the boat. Seriously.
We've all had bad days on the water where nothing seems to go our way. Tell us about the most frustrating day of fishing you've ever experienced in the comments section below. The saddest sob story wins a hug from yours truly.
about the author
Texan Jason Bryant has written about fresh and saltwater fishing for more than a decade. When he's not chasing redfish in his poling skiff, you'll find him dodging pirates and looking for mean Mexico largemouths at Lake Falcon.