Instantly there’s a high whining noise that makes me look down at the instrument console to see if the engine has thrown a rod or something. “WHIIIIIIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!” Captain Chad jumps out of his seat so fast I think he’s going to fall off the bridge. “BIG FISH!” he screams and is immediately answered by Sandy yelling, “NUMBER FOUR! WHO’S NUMBER FOUR?” It’s not the engine; it’s line flying off one of the reels at an incredible rate. Some lucky so-and-so has just fallen into the fight of a lifetime and gets to go mano-a-mano with a billfish! I look down at the card I’ve pulled from my shirt pocket. There, in my trembling fingers, is the four of spades. It’s me! “I’m number four!” I yell, climbing into the fighting chair as Sandy feeds the belt around me and clips it to the sides of the behemoth reel.
I plant my feed on the sliding board and take the rod in my hands like I’m stepping up to the plate at Progressive Field. I can’t believe my luck, I never won anything! Well, this one time when I was twelve I won a plastic horse at the Apple Festival, but today I’m cashing in all my bad luck on a chance to fight whatever it is on the end of this line. My old salt dreams come true as the mighty leviathan of the ocean, the king of all fighting fish, the mighty Blue Marlin leaps twenty feet from the surface and disappears again beneath the surface. “HOH! MARLIN!” I hear from the crew and green envious anglers behind me. I’m not choking up. It’s just the spray from the saltwater that’s causing these tears in my eyes!
If you haven’t read Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, get a copy. There’s nothing I could add here that can better tell you what it’s like fighting a big fish. Just let me clear up a couple of common misperceptions. For one thing, you’re not strapped into the chair, you’re strapped to the reel and if you don’t actively fight that fish with all you have, he will pull you out of the chair and you’ll be lying on the deck getting flogged with a $2900 fishing rod. Also, if you think you’re going to fight him with your arms by pulling on the rod, that’s only on TV. The only way to fight a big fish is with your legs, pushing off and taking up the little bit of slack you’ve made by cranking that reel like your life depends on it. Also, you’re not going to just pull that fish in until he is out of energy and the will to fight, so don’t even try to defeat him, just outlast him. When he wants to run, he IS going to run. He’ll rip 200 yards of hard work off your reel like you’re not even there. Just deal with it, keep your head in the game to wear him down.
When you finally see the silvery flash of his belly, he’s done; that’s him waving the white flag. Remember to tip your crew well because this is where their work begins. It’s not easy going from a 100 pound mono to a 500 pound leader, bringing that big fish along-side, making sure he’s tied off and secure. If the sharks show up, you could lose your catch or the crew might have to bring him up on the deck. If everyone works together and luck is on your side, the crew will hoist the pennant of your fish and other crews will clamor to see the tale of the scale when the crane pulls your fish up at the dock. Yes sir, when they see that pennant everyone will know it was a good day for the Bite Me One!
It’s not reasonable to expect that on a little four hour tourist trip on the big water you’re going to hook into a Blue Marlin, but that’s exactly what we did. And folks, I would like to tell you that it was the fight of my life, but I have to be honest and say it wasn’t. The fact is, it wasn’t me who looked down and saw the four of spades in my hand and had to fight this trophy sea monster to the death…it was my wife!