By Mike Zusman
Our captain was hard on the throttle in pursuit of the feasting sailfish. The dark beast appeared behind the frantic school, turning the ocean to a frothy boil as bill and bait fish shattered the surface.
Joe, my father in-law, was starboard casting a live ballyhoo towards the ruckus while his first-time guest, Cory, hung back watching the action. I stood by, ready to help, and eager to improve my lackluster reputation as a capable mate and offshore fisherman.
Anyone in my family is quick to tell of my sloth-like energy levels when fishing offshore. This is due to the toxic amount of Dramamine and beer that my finely-tuned physiology requires to stay upright.
If my levels are off, all lunch is lost. I’ve ended many day trips early with a merciful ride to the surf zone for a swim to shore, sparing Joe and crew the time and fuel expense required to bring my sick ass safely back home. If we’re tournament fishing, there is no mercy.
During this chase, fortunately, I was alert and ready.
When Joe shouted that his bait was lost and began reeling in his line, I was in the right place at the right time to help. I reached into the stern live-well and quickly grabbed an evasive ballyhoo, hooking it through the beak just in time to exchange rods with Joe. I was satisfied with my performance despite the chaotic chop, the unpredictable sailfish, and the captain putting the three three-hundred horsepower Mercuries through their paces.
A fierce competitor in all aspects of life, Joe sailfishes frequently during the season, and his reaction times are an order of magnitude better than mine. In less time than it took for me to rig that ballyhoo, Joe made a split-second assessment of the bait I chose before wrapping his hand around the panicking fish.
With a look of extreme disgust on his face, he ripped the ballyhoo from the hook, its beak falling to the deck as he tossed the doomed baitfish into the wash behind the boat. In one smooth motion, Joe plunged his hand into the live well, instantly selected and caught the correct ballyhoo, rigged it, and tossed it toward the sail.
I raised my hands in disbelief as I shared a smile with Cory, who slapped his knees in laughter at Joe’s intense and obvious disgust for the bait I selected.
A few seconds later, Joe hooked up. After a short fight and a touch of the leader, the fish was released.
We ended the day with one sail each, which was a first for Cory. “I’ve never fished with anyone as serious as your father in-law before; that was really awesome!”
Great job, Cory. Joe never stops talking about how proud he is of you.