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Reel Journey


Well folks there are fish tales and there are true stories, and like God, or my friends Dave & Mike could attest, this really did happen.

Sometime about 1981 I was 14yrs old, I decided that I wanted a new boat rod and spinning reel, so off to the TackleBox in Garfield, New Jersey I went. Richard “Binky” Wilson (R.I.P) owned the joint and had been friends with my father since he was a teenager. For me, there was just no other place to buy a new rod & reel. Binky was always able to fit me with exactly what I needed within my budget when I was young. The man had a way of giving you this look to which when he swore by a product you did not question it, ya just forked over the cash! Just about everything he sold me had his guarantee on it and somehow managed to catch me fish. So there it was, my brand new Diawa Silver Series 2600C, and a 6’6″ medium / heavy action “Diawa Quick Stick” rod, specifically to be used for party boat bluefish trips.

For the next four years I went on numerous Bluefish trips with my dad and friends always bringing my trusty rod and reel catching countless numbers of blues as well as some big tide runner weakfish back when they were in thick. The high speed retrieve was great for cranking jigs cast into a pod of frenzied bluefish. It really was the most prized fishing rod and reel in my inventory of the day. It is worthy of note that I won a couple of pools with it as well.

So it is no surprise that I would bring it along back in the summer of 1985 when my friends and I decided on taking an evening bluefish trip aboard Captain Ron Santee’s “Fisherman” out of the Atlantic Highlands. It was to be my last fishing trip prior to leaving for US Navy boot camp. I spooled up with a fresh load of 20 lb pink Ande line, gathered up my gear and off we went! Of course, you can imagine I was pretty excited about this trip, I wanted it to be the best ever. I had no idea what kind of day I was in for but it didn’t take long for events to unfold.

We got out to the fishing grounds after about a 45 minute steam from the dock. Captain Ron got us anchored up and the mates immediately started chumming the water. It was a pretty crowded boat that day so everyone was in kinda tight. Within about a half-hour or so the fish started showing up and taking some baits. It was a pick at first and the guy standing next to me was lucky enough to get one of the first bites. As he picked up the slack, he reared down and set the hook and in doing so his elbow hit my arm in such a way that it knocked my prized rod and reel out of my hands and into the drink! That was it, not even an apology or word said! I sat there with my jaw on the deck and my stomach-turning. You could imagine that I was pretty upset and fighting hard to keep from flying off the handle. After a short while, I recomposed myself and said what can I do? So I reluctantly rented a rod from the boat and tried to carry on with my day.

About an hour after the incident, the fishing slowed down so Captain Ron picked up anchor and we headed down a mile or so from our first position. Once more we started to chum and soon the fish were coming over the rails again. I, however, could not catch a darn thing! I guess the only way to describe how I felt was just utterly sad. That this is how my last trip before boot camp would end, a lost fishing pole and no fish!

In my very next cast I got the surprise of my life. Remember I said this was a crowded boat? As I was cranking in to check my bait I felt some tension on the line and it felt as if I had gotten tangled with someone else’s line. Low and behold up comes the hook with someone’s line on it. Peculiar it seemed though, there was only a small amount of resistance on it. As I looked closely at the line I snagged, it appeared that it was pink and about 20 lb test. Still, since this was a very commonly used line on party boats of that time, I thought nothing of it but I decided that I would pull it up anyway just to see who’s it was to keep them from fouling up yet someone else’s line. After pulling in about 30 or so feet of line, once again, I found myself trying to pick my jaw back up from the deck! There out of the dark ocean waters was my fishing rod! I just about had to clean my drawers! The mate helped me bring it back aboard and he too was totally stunned. We moved more than a mile away, over two hours had passed, out of 70 or 80 people on our boat and with several other party boats fishing in the immediate area, I had just caught my own rod and reel back! You figure the odds on that happening!

And the story doesn’t end there! As I picked up the rod and reeled in all the line I had taken in by hand, I was astonished to find that there was a fish on the other end of the line. After somewhat short battle incomes an exhausted 10-pound bluefish who must’ve picked up my bait where we first anchored up and dragged my rod and reel all the way to our current location! I made darn sure that no gaff would pierce that fish, I just waited till it settled down, then reeled as far down to it as I could and swung him over the rail. After a gentle hook removal, I released him and the fish charged off as soon as it hit the water.

I remember the mates and my friends Dave and Mike telling me just how impossible and unlikely it was for this kind of thing to occur as it did. It was, in essence, a fishing miracle. I retired that rod for the rest of the trip and continued to fish with the rental coming up with two or three more bluefish by day’s end.

When I returned home naturally it was tough to sell a story like that to my family and friends but I swear to you and Dave, a respected Police Officer, could swear to you that this actually took place. I disassembled the reel in front of my dad and clearly it was full of saltwater there was no denying that. After soaking all the parts in WD40 and re-greasing everything she was back together and waiting for her next trip. That wouldn’t come until 4 years later when I got out of the service.

Throughout the 90’s I caught countless numbers of striped bass, weakfish, bluefish and fluke with that old Diawa (now transferred to a nine-foot surf rod to fish the beaches). It also was used to help me take 2nd place with a 9-pound bluefish in the first annual Governors Cup Surf Fishing Tournament on Island Beach State Park earning me yet another rod and reel as well as a handshake and photo with Governor Jim Florio. It has seen 6 bail springs, several drag washers, a new handle but nary a gear or bearing failure.

To this day I still have the reel that took a journey under the sea and against incredible odds, made it back to my hands. It is the one pictured at the top of the page. The rod has long since been retired after catching many hundreds of fish. It simply fell apart and was not worth fixing. As life would have it, I don’t get the opportunity to fish that often anymore, but when I do you could be sure that my old reliable Diawa will still be up to the challenge.

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