Excuses, Excuses

We've all had them at some point in our fishing careers

An overrun tangled fishing reel
A professional overrun is just one of a number of excuses in fishing. © Scott Kerrigan/

The wind is blowing from the wrong direction. West winds kill the fishing. The water is too cold or too hot. There was an earthquake tremor last night. The boat has a bad squeal; the reels have old line and sticky drags; the baits aren’t swimming right. We have rubber hooks; it’s a full moon; the fish have soft mouths; and many, many more. Whether it is the captains, the deckhands or the anglers, most all of us have a 5-gallon bucket full of excuses that we’ve used over the years.

Watch: We show you how to rig one of the best baits for blue marlin: the swimming mackerel.

The most famous excuse you hear about for poor fishing is bananas on the boat. When we were fishing in the Virgin Islands and did not catch a blue marlin, my deckhand, Doug Haigh, would buy some bananas from the market and hang a bunch on each speaker in the cockpit, with the theory being that two ­negatives make a positive. We would usually catch a marlin or two the next day. I always thought that if the fish somehow knew we had bananas on the boat, they sure wouldn’t bite those lures with the hooks hanging out of them.


Years ago, one captain told me that his boss wanted to fish with 12-pound-test line for sailfish. Back at the dock, the other boats caught more fish with their 30-pound line, so the captain would say that they didn’t catch much because they were using light line. Back in the 1970s, we used 30-pound-test for Atlantic sailfish, and even in the early 2000s, we used 30-pound for Pacific sails in Costa Rica, but now the boats are using lighter line, and the 30 is for blue marlin that try the teasers. Same in the Virgin Islands—back in the 1980s, it seemed like everyone was using 80s and 130s for their marlin fishing. Now they use 30s and 50s because most all the boats are using the switch-baiting technique. They might have an 80 ready for a really big one.

The water is too hot: We did go for more than 30 days without catching a billfish in 1983 off the Hannibal Bank in Panama. We did not have a water-temperature gauge on the boat back then, and we later found out there was an El Niño that year. Bad fishing.

Old line/bad line: I had a charter bring some new 30-pound-test line to Cape Verde back in 1988 because we were running low. They proceeded to break off a bunch of marlin and blamed it on the line they brought. We kept telling them that they needed to back the drag off even more when the marlin was hauling ass in the other direction. They brought the line back home with them to be tested after the trip—turns out, it was perfect.


No tide: You wouldn’t think that being more than 30 miles offshore and the ­sailfish quit biting for an hour that the tide had changed, but that is what I used to hear on the radio all the time in Costa Rica when the bite slowed down. How do those darn ­sailfish know there’s no tide that far offshore?

Earthquakes: We had a great bite going off at the ­seamounts 120 miles offshore one time. The next day, the whole fleet had trouble getting even one blue marlin bite. Word got around later that day that there had been a tremor early that morning. The next day, the bite was back on again. Go figure out that one.

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Looking at my logbooks, I think I have used quite a few of these excuses over the years. You’re welcome to borrow any of them anytime you want.

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Marlin.


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