“Are you a good sportsman?” That’s what I asked myself. What is the gold standard in being worthy of that lofty title?
A recent on-the-water experience was the reason I was asking myself these hard questions. It caused me to reassess how I approach each fishing trip, how I interact with other anglers and what’s really important at the end of the day.
It began with a trip with guests to San Luis. The fishing had been tough and this day began with no hits. Several hours later, I was perplexed while doing all the regular things, but the stripers obviously didn’t like what I was selling. This could be a long day.
It was about 10:30 a.m., with one fish, when my cell phone rang. “Hey Rog, that you by the dam? This is John. Remember me?” a voice chimed. Oh yeah, I had met him at the dock – a real nice guy.
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“You doing any good?” he queried. “No, we’ve only got one so far,” I moaned. Swallowing my pride, I asked the million-dollar question: “So how are you doing?” I asked. “Killing them,” he enthusiastically replied. I was afraid of that. Now he was going to tell me how great it was and good luck. Not good.
But I was wrong – very wrong.
“Roger, I’m telling you, you need to put on this one kind of lure, and it has to be in this exact color,” he said. Whoa, he was giving me the code, the very thing all fishermen cherish and guard with their lives – pretty unbelievable. I was thankful as I tore through my tackle box, looking for the magic lure. I told him I had a small one, but the bigger size was much better, he said.
Pausing, John said, “No problem Roger, come over by us when you want and I’ll give you the right lure.” Awesome. These things were expensive. I hung up and started trolling my lone magic lure, hoping it would produce. Nothing.
I get another call from John. “You doing any good yet?” he asked. “Nope,” I said. “Well, get over here where we’re fishing, because we just got a double.” It’s about three-quarters of a mile away, but in minutes we’re trolling a hundred yards from them … and still not getting bit. Reluctantly, I take John up on borrowing his bigger lure. Circling nearby, they throw a brand-new lure into our net to try.
The fish started biting and before the end we had landed 20 nice fish. Wow! Nothing to it when you have someone else do all the work and they give you the keys to the castle. I certainly couldn’t take credit for any of these fish or being a great angler. My saving grace was really about having the right friends who wanted to help me. Good lesson.
The greatest lesson was that John and his buddy were focused beyond just fishing, but also on trying to help someone else do well. A great attitude and spirit, as well as an honest concern for our success, transcended the competitive one-upsmanship that can be destructive and poison relationships. They sacrificed their secret info for a higher cause. We all felt it’s wonderful impact. Humbling.
It also dawned on me that maybe the reason they helped me was because they saw I tried to do the right thing, too. I think they felt I respected them and the help they gave me and that I would reciprocate the favor.
True sportsmanship is a special attitude many may feel is an old, outdated idea, but I’m here to tell you it’s never gone out of style – and never will either. At the end of the day, will you be remembered for how many big fish you caught or by how many people you’ve deeply touched and affected in your life. Be your best. Never give up.
P.S. I know you’re wondering what the “magic lure” is, but that secret is John’s to share. Ha!