Breaking the Rules on Election Day

Surfcasting rule number one says “never leave fish to find fish.” On Election Day, I recklessly violated this most sacrosanct axiom, but it paid off. It remains to be seen if our country emerges as fortunate.

ELECTION DAY KARMA: Virtually a fish on every cast.

On Election Day, typically the beginning of the end of my fall surfcasting season, I sat out the morning tide, fishing instead for votes in Georgia as a phone-bank volunteer. By noon, ready to do what I do best, I hit the beach at Two Mile Hollow Road, where I found a sand bar that was beginning to emerge from the afternoon’s descending tide. With fortune’s beneficent smile, the fish would be just on the other side of that bar. Indeed, I got a fish on my first cast. A respectable schoolie–nothing big–but it used the moving tide, the northwest-wind driven current, and the breaking waves beyond the bar to put up a worthy fight. I released it and another half dozen that followed.

LEGENDARY LEE-BOB: A keeper that went back to swim another day.

Surfcasting alone on such a beautiful afternoon was anathema in so many ways, not the least of which was too much time and space for thoughts about the day’s politics. So It was time to put a “fish-call” text out to Legendary LeeBob who I knew would be heading for White Sands Beach to the east.

He too was into fish.  We decided to meet at Indian Wells Beach.  We both left fish to find other fish. And we got well.   More respectable schoolies and quite a few dinks. LeeBob got one 28-inch bass–a keeper–but sent it back. After an hour of fun with these fish, talking about tides and tackle as we cast–anything but politics–we moved again; this time further east to the beach in front of Treasure island Drive, the street where I live.  More fish.  LeeBob was hooking up two fish for every one of mine.  He was throwing a green-tube tailed diamond jig with a pink teaser.  I was using my squiggly sand eel lure, also with a pink teaser.  Our teasers were feather clad hooks positioned about 8 inches ahead of the shiny metal lures at the end of our lines. They often produced doubles–two fish on one retrieve, one on the terminal lure and one on the teaser. Fun experience, but often it creates the illusion of a really big fish, when in fact it is two small fish: dinks on the teasers.

When we found the sweet spot–casting beyond the bar and making a slow retrieve into the whitewater trough–it was practically a fish on every cast.  LeeBob made a quick temporary exit to pick up his son from school.  When he returned, I was still catching. We moved again, to a sand bar that had good potential a quarter mile east. We caught fish there too. LeeBob and I began to question reality. 

LeeBob had a honey-do list to complete, so around 4pm, we both figured our day was a wrap.  We simultaneously hooked up to doubles and that seemed to be an appropriate end for an epic afternoon. But there’s another cardinal rule that says “never leave them biting.” So, alone, I moved further east to Napeague Lane just to see if anyone there was into bigger fish.  I found four surfcasters all doing what we’d been doing: having a ball catching and releasing small stripers. Nearby, however, was a cut in another sand bar where I had caught big fish in the past. I paid my respects by casting into the cresting waves, now turned golden by the magic light of the setting sun. At this point, it was virtually impossible not to catch fish.  No bait showing, no breaking fish blitzing, no birds diving. Hits, if not hook ups, on every cast.  Awesome.

By this time, I had racked my 11 foot rod and went to my smaller 8-foot rig. It was lighter, more flexible and sensitive, and I didn’t need to cast quite as far with the tide bottoming out. That’s when I got the best hit of the day. Or maybe it was the second best. Earlier, I hooked into a fish that pulled so hard I immediately knew it was a quality striper above and beyond the schoolies we had been catching. The problem was getting it up and over the sandbar which only had a few inches of water on it. The fish got some leverage on the wet sand, and was able to spit the hook. I was grateful for the hook up, but really pissed that I dropped that fish, figuring it was my best chance of the day to put a keeper in the cooler.

But now my drag was again screaming, line was peeling off my reel, and I imagined how to not make the same mistake as earlier. This time, I kept the fish in deeper water, approaching it without giving any slack. Eventually I saw I had another double, which was a disappointment–at first. When I approached the pair, however, it was clear they were both keepers!  One was 28, the other –the one on the teaser–was 28.5 inches!  They each weighed 10 to 11 pounds.

I jimmy-fucked with them for a while, releasing one, photographing the other, caught my breath, sent LeeBob a voice mail, got ready to leave the beach. Fifty six inch of fish at more than 20 pounds told me I was done for the day.  But then, I thought: what the hell, let’s see what happens with a few more casts.  Bang!  Fish on! The bite continued. Another half dozen hook ups!  Then, with the outgoing tide hitting bottom, and the sun disappeared, the action stopped as sudden as a heart attack. 

Election Day Epilogue: LeeBob and I probably had 80 fish combined, an epic afternoon in the surf. All that remained was for an equally epic turnout and turn of events in the election. And all we could do about that—as with our surfcasting—was remain ever optimistic and hopeful.

BIDEN BASS; KAMELA KEEPER: I don’t ordinarily name my fish, but this was no ordinary day.

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