In defense of the underdogs

    Like the Rodney Dangerfield?s of piscatorial persuasion, some fish just don?t get the respect they deserve. I see it every day from anglers who belittle bonito or loathe ladyfish, even though these gamefish can make an experienced angler walk like they just rode a horse with two saddle horns. 
    It?s easy to get lost in the glamour of haute cuisine, and I?m right there at the front of the line for sushi bombs and snook tacos, but there are some fish that are considered a nuisance simply because cooking them will make the flies chip in and buy you a screen door. Yet that same fish will pop your knuckles on fly or make you start the boat on spinning gear.  
    Ask anyone who?s rented a house in Hatteras for a week to chase albies on fly, and they?ll tell you how great it is to pull on as many little tunny as they can buy. Many will extol the virtues without you having to ask. 
    I have clients who regularly want to go offshore and chum for dolphin, sailfish, blackfins or kingfish--whatever shows up. What they really want is a swarm of bonito that will make them see Spectra, and if anything worthy comes in, then so much the better. 
    Barracuda are another of the underdogs that while edible, don?t share many takers for Ciguatera roulette. But if you want to see how deeply you can blister your skin, stick a 40-pounder and try to stop it with your thumb. 
    Even an average fish can burn right through the dermis and into fatty tissue. And of all the fish short of leviathan, the barracuda offers the greatest display of attitude, whether questionable or obvious. And cudatude will keep every fish nearby thinking more about survival than sustenance. 
    When you?re thinking of jumbo snook and a jack crevalle shows, not much thought goes into water skiing the crevalle to the boat, but when you?re thinking snook and a jumbo jack crevalle strikes, thoughts tend to wander more towards retaining enough line to be able to continue the fishing trip.  It?s true that jacks are voracious feeders that will eat almost anything, but I?ve seen a school of 1,000 jacks deny a topwater plug like it had palsy. 
    One consistent in the fishing industry is that you?ll never hear a rod manufacturer complain about too many jacks in the area. That?s because jacks are the shepherds of  high stick splintering, and more rods have been divvied into multiples through crevalle power than any other saltwater gamefish. 
    Rumors abound that bonito, barracuda and jacks are edible?a debate I?ll never be able to partake in?but no one will argue that ladyfish are a rank above the purveyors of poo, and if you don?t believe me, just give one a squeeze. 
    But let a school of ladyfish loose on the flats, and every angler out there will have to replace all the jigs in their tackle box. Given the right tackle, ladyfish put in more hang time than Dwyane Wade with a tank of nitrous oxide. While the entire interior of the country can bond with 9-inch trout, half the flats anglers in this state can?t relate to a fish that will make a reel sing like Britney Spears at an all-you-can eat hip-hop buffet.             
    The freshwater persona non grata takes several forms, from the dog-faced bowfin to the sultan of armor better known as the snakehead. These fish are as bad as a backstage girl in black Lycra tights and cigarette-stained vocal chords, but you don?t see Jimmy Houston offering a kiss to either of them.             
    While both these species have the market cornered on ugmo, an unexpected hookup often leads to extraneous efforts to simply maintain possession of your fishing rod. And if you think bass can be tough to catch, pick any canal with clear water and try to get a decent pattern going. On average, most anglers are soon scratching their heads like mosquitos were drawn to their eczema.               
    So here?s to the underdogs?may they always be omnipotent yet durable, may their attitudes worsen with the population explosion, and may they always make their presence known on a slow day. I for one, have your backs. I?m quite certain the tackle manufacturers have your affronts.        

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