with Tommy Sanders

Q: Hey Q and A, why can't I take a banana with me when I'm fishing?

- Dirk Flournoy, Tampa Florida

A. You said the word banana. I’m throwing you out of the magazine because you are an obvious bringer of bad luck.

Photo of a bunch of bananas

Here’s why:  200 years ago, sea captains in the tropics would occasionally bring crates of bananas on board to supplement the ship’s food supplies.  These crates would harbor the occasional snake or spider.  When the captain found a snake in his chest of drawers or a spider in his drawers, there would be hell to pay.  No more bananas on the boat. And that’s the origin of the famous banana superstition. 

I wish we could throw that one out, along with most all of the other fishing superstitions.  I like bananas. They’re sweet but not too sweet.  They give you vitamins and energy.  They also come in an easy to open package and they don’t need refrigeration.  But no.  We can’t bring them to the ramp, we can’t have banana nut bread the night before and we can’t even mention Banana Boat Sunscreen.  All because some ship’s captain had a fruit fly up his nose two centuries ago.

By that same logic, coming on a boat without shaving or with no intention to change underwear should be bad luck, because critters can reside in unattended areas like that as well.  Wrong.  I’ve talked to tournament anglers who feel that hygiene neglect  can actually bring good luck.

But that’s the nature of superstitions and especially fishing superstitions.  A guy named Francis Bacon really brought it home (actually four centuries ago) when he said: “The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.”

But we fishermen don’t care.  When we catch a good limit with a bent quarter in our pocket, we know instinctively that we will never catch another limit if we lose that lucky quarter.  That kind of thinking gives us two things that we crave: a lucky charm and a built in excuse.  For a lot of folks, it doesn’t get any better than that.

The only fishing superstition that seems to have any basis in logic is one from long ago in England (which is where so many of these originate): If someone asks a fisherman where he’s going, then the trip should be canceled.  That I can understand---why give away the juice?  On the other hand, why not just do what most fisherman do and say “I don’t know, I’m just going fishing.”  Then proceed with plan A.

Another superstition in the fishing top five is the one that says: if you catch a fish on your first cast, your day is screwed.  Obviously, the author of that one is the first guy who ever visited a one-fish pond.  In any other context, it just seems like a way to mess with someone who gets off to a better start than you.

In fact, there is reason to suspect that a lot of old fishing superstitions were made up just to manipulate fishermen.  So many of these involve canceling or postponing a trip for whatever reason, i.e. having a woman on board while the boat is tied up, saying the words “salt” or “pig” out loud or whistling into the wind---all given as rock solid reasons to get off the boat and go do something else.  That’s why some folks feel that these silly notions could be mostly traced back to the parties that would benefit the most from canceled fishing trips: pub owners.

But despite all logical arguments to the contrary, I’d say lose the bananas on fishing days, Dirk.  Either that or just go to the pub with all the other unlucky blokes.