Gone Fishin’: Undaunted by bad luck, a fisherman tests her Mojo a third time

Matt and Alicia Winter in Coop’s last week shopping for a third Mojo rod. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Fishermen believe in mojo. Tides, fresh bait, the hottest lure, the best fly mean nothing if a fisherman does not have mojo. Look no further than the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby for evidence.

Experienced Derby fishermen go to such great pains every year to register under the same number that the tackle shop outlets keep lists of “reserved” buttons. There are lucky rods and lucky lures. But on any given day mojo is what makes the difference. That and a good fishing rod.

St. Croix makes some of the finest quality fishing rods around. The company’s Mojo Surf rod is light and tough and named to inspire confidence. But what happens when you start to believe in bad mojo?

I was standing in Coop’s when Matt and Alicia Winter, longtime West Tisbury seasonal visitors from Kent, Conn., walked in and began inspecting fishing rods. Alicia picked up an 8-foot Mojo. “I love this rod but I’m starting to think it’s bad luck,” Alicia said to Justin Pribanic, who was manning the store while Coop was off tuna fishing. What fishing columnist could resist that opening?

Alicia, Matt, and their son, Nathan, visit their family’s home every spring and fall to fish. Last October, they walked into Coop’s looking for a rod they could use for bass and other species. The 8-foot Mojo, matched with a Penn Battle 4,000 reel, was perfect. They each bought a new rod.

It was the last day of Columbus Day weekend. They had been fishing on the beach and were tired. “We leaned the rods against the truck, which we never do,” Matt said. “Neither one of us thought anything. We drove away and ran over them. It was awful.”

Two rods were destroyed, including Alicia’s new Mojo.

They returned to the Vineyard in May and again in June. Alicia had bought a new Mojo. They were excited to be on Island during the spring squid run along Bend-in-the-Road Beach in Edgartown.

They went to State Beach. Matt was with Nathan, 13, who was jigging for squid. Alicia threw out some frozen squid on a bottom rig and set her rod in a sand spike. “I walked over to talk to her for a minute, maybe half a minute,” Matt said. With their attention diverted they were not looking at the rod.

“The rod holder was just lying on the sand  and there was a groove in the sand leading to the water,” Matt said. “Alicia was really sad.”

Not only had she lost her new rod, but she had also very likely lost a very big striped bass. As Matt was retelling the story, Alicia was outside the shop testing the feel of another 8-foot Mojo. She admitted it was a very “cool” looking rod, but she could not shake the notion that in her hands it might just be bad luck.

Unwilling to succumb to bad mojo, Alicia bought the Mojo. Third time’s the charm!

Author talk

Author Michael J. Tougias seems to have found his niche in retelling the gripping details of disaster and rescue at sea. The common threads in the books I have read are weather, Coast Guard heroism, and decision-making, underpinned in some cases by personal courage and in others, characterized by miscalculations.

I met Michael several years ago when he spoke at the Vineyard Haven library about his most recently completed book, “Ten Hours Until Dawn.” The book tells the story of survival, heroism and disaster at sea story during the Blizzard of 1978 when the tanker Global Hope floundered on the shoals in Salem Sound off the Massachusetts coast. The Coast Guard heard the Mayday calls and immediately dispatched a patrol boat. Within an hour, the Coast Guard boat was in as much trouble as the tanker, having lost its radar, depth finder, and engine power in horrendous seas. Pilot boat Captain Frank Quirk was monitoring the Coast Guard’s efforts by radio, and when he heard that the patrol boat was in jeopardy, he and his crew of four went out in their 49-foot steel boat, the Can Do, to assist the Coast Guard.

His latest book, which he co-authored with Douglas Campbell, is “Rescue of the Bounty, Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy.”

The tall ship Bounty, featured in the Marlon Brando movie “Mutiny on the Bounty,” sank during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The captain and a crewmember died in the accident, but the Coast Guard performed harrowing helicopter rescues to save the other 14 sailors.

“The story begins on October 25, 2012 when Captain Robin Walbridge made the fateful decision to sail the HMS Bounty from New London, Connecticut, to St. Petersburg, Florida. Walbridge was well aware that a hurricane was forecast to come up the Eastern seaboard. He explained to his crew of 15 that the ship would fare better at sea than at port, and that he thought he could sail ‘around the hurricane.’ He told the crew that anyone who did not want to come on the voyage could leave the ship and there would be no hard feelings. No one took the captain up on his offer, and this decision would have fatal consequences.”

Michael will speak at the Vineyard Haven library at 7 pm on Tuesday about “Rescue of the Bounty.” He will speak at 6:30 pm on Thursday night at the Oak Bluffs library about “Ten Hours Until Dawn.”

Michael’s slide presentations and dramatic accounts make for a great night out for anyone with an interest in the sea and the heroism of those who risk their lives to save others. A book signing will follow the program, and the presentation is suitable for all ages.