It seemingly defies logic that a fruit, a song or even a color could determine the outcome of a fishing trip, but many bluewater anglers believe as strongly in their superstitions as a young child believes in Santa Claus.
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The scary thing is that these same captains and anglers have the evidence to prove that some items, traditions or charms bring good luck, while others can produce only bad luck. And it can differ widely from boat to boat. It’s like a brand of black magic or mythic island voodoo: If you truly believe that someone sticking pins in a doll made to resemble you will cause problems, it will. But if you’re a nonbeliever, you don’t have anything to worry about.
The Yin and Yang of Bananas
We’ve all heard the myths about this good-for-you yellow fruit. Bananas are strictly taboo on some boats and allowed, and even encouraged, on others.
Capt. Bouncer Smith, of Miami Beach, Florida, is famous for his well-earned fear of bananas aboard Bouncer’s Dusky. In fact, Smith’s disdain extends to banana bread, banana chips and even clothing named after or depicting anything remotely banana-related.
“I can’t tell you how many pairs of Fruit of the Loom underwear we have pulled out, wedgie-ing people and cutting off the labels,” says Smith, who says he had a hand in getting the company to change that iconic brand. He was fishing with a regular customer who brought his friend Jack along for the day. Anchored in 90 feet with two baits on top and two on the bottom, they did not get a bite all morning. Meanwhile, Smith’s buddy, Capt. Dennis Forgione, dropped anchor 25 yards away and immediately caught a sailfish.
“I moved 25 yards west of Dennis. He continued to catch fish; we continued to catch nothing. I said, ‘Darn it, someone on this boat is wearing Fruit of the Loom underwear — the one with the little bananas on the label.’ Jack says, ‘What would you say if one of your customers was vice president in charge of sales for Fruit of the Loom?’ And less than a year later, the bananas were gone.”
Another time, Smith was waiting at Miami Beach Marina for husband and wife duo Don and Sandy, from Aventura, Florida, and their young nephew. They’d booked him to fish the Miami Billfish Tournament but showed up just minutes before the 8 a.m. Bimini start. Smith set up on a rip just off Government Cut, and Sandy released the first sailfish of the tournament, then caught another just a few minutes later. They released six sailfish that day and ended up going 12 for 12 to win the three-day tournament.
“At the end of the first day, I said, ‘I’ve got to ask: What happened to you this morning?’ Don said they were at the dock at 6:30, but when he went to the restroom, he saw he was wearing Fruit of the Loom underwear, so he drove home and changed, then raced back in Miami Beach rush-hour traffic,” Smith says. “So how could I not be a believer at that point?”
Yes, We Want No Bananas
Smith says he first learned of bananas being bad luck in 1976 when he was a guide at Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, Florida. He was on the porch by the tackle shop, hoping to book a trip, when he saw Capt. Sarge Werner come in from a fishless offshore trip on his boat, Hawk, storm out of the cabin with a handful of bananas, throw them in a garbage can and then head straight for Papa Joe’s Bar across the street.
Smith says the banana superstition goes back to when boats transporting bananas from tropical jungles also had poisonous spiders and snakes mixed in with the fruit that would bite unlucky crewmembers. For Smith, it’s all about bananas preventing bites, and he’s a believer that they are the worst kind of bad mojo.
The Flip Side: Yellow Is Good
Capt. Richard Stanczyk, the owner of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina and one of the pioneers of daytime swordfishing in Florida, probably loves bananas as much as Smith hates the tropical fruit.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a boat and not taken a banana,” says Stanczyk, who fishes offshore with his brother, Scott, on Catch 22, a 56-foot custom-built Blackwell. “There is definitely a stigma to carrying bananas, but there have been the days where we sat eight hours waiting for a swordfish, I pop out a banana, throw the peel over and we get a bite.”
For Stanczyk, motivational sayings have provided the best results over his long fishing career. When the fishing gets tough,…