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Derby fishermen work hard to prepare gear
Winning the Derby is about luck and preparation. I am not sure what the right formula is, but I do know that successful Derby fishermen leave very little to chance.
Dick Hathaway of Edgartown may be a controversial Derby figure, but few would dispute his fishing skills. He once told me he wrapped the squid he caught individually to preserve the quality of his bait.
Derby weigh master Roy Langley rings in the 61st Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. Photo by Ralph Stewart
I admit I have not prepared my tackle for the Derby. But then I have not painted the room I have been promising to paint for two years, or organized the assortment of tools and fishing gear littering my basement workbench.
I am a procrastinator. I admit it. So I do what every procrastinator does, I hope that I will get lucky.
Two years ago Bob Thomas, who you will read more about later, got lucky and caught a big false albacore on the first day of the derby. The fish held up to the very end of the tournament.
Richard Hall holds his first-place false albacore. Photo by Tyson Schmitt.
Richard told me that in anticipation of this year's Derby, he bought a seven-foot custom rod made by Stevie Morris at Dick's and a new Penn reel that he placed in a plastic bag. He did not use the new reel until Sunday. If he lost a fish it was not going to be because of his rod, reel, or line, he told me.
Richard was expecting good fishing when the forecast called for northeast winds and clouds. "That lousy wind is what I was hoping for," he told me. "Albies seem to rear their heads during bad weather."
Hooking a big albie for the first time is an unnerving experience. No other species caught in Vineyard waters runs off so much line so quickly.
Jim Cornwall of Edgartown carried a 13.36-pound striped bass through the door, the first fish weighed in when the 61st Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby weigh station opened at 8 am Sunday morning. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The fish took about 150 yards of line straight out. Richard was worried it would spool him, but he resisted the temptation to tighten his drag, a dangerous move when a fish is already dragging the weight of so much line through the water.
Derby luck rubs off
I searched my brain for the right words to describe Bob and the scene at the Derby awards ceremony. I wrote, "Bob, a man unfettered by a car. Bob, the painter with the green knapsack, a man known for living an uncomplicated life, and now the owner of a new boat he had no idea how he would move from its parking place out front, stepped to the microphone, his eyes welling with tears as the wharf rats, the Derby denizens of Memorial Wharf, shouted their hearts out for one of their own."
Sometimes one event can mark a change of tide in our fortunes. If Bob thought winning the boat was going to be his high water mark he was wrong.
Two weeks ago, on Aug. 31, Bob walked into Jim's Package store in Oak Bluffs and bought a scratch ticket. It turned out to be as lucky as the albie he caught two years ago.
According to the lottery press release, when asked what his plans were for his windfall, Bob replied, "I'm going fishing!"
Kids Day is Sunday