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95 Percent Rule

The fish of a lifetime will always test your weakest link.

I should have learned it way back in 1988, but I have to remind myself of it constantly.

I call it the 95 percent rule. Essentially it means that the rigging, tackle, bait, boat handling, and angling skills that work for you on 95 percent of the fish you catch, are worthless when the very fish you dream about comes along.

It was 1988 (May 12th to be exact) when I asked my fishing buddy Mike Youngblood why his hooks had different colored points than mine. “ It's because I hand sharpened each barb in that box of 50 kingfish treble hooks.” He replied. When we stuck one of them in the tail section of the sailfish that won us $4000 (for me that equated to 3 months salary back then) for boating the first sailfish of our club's season that day, I should have never gone to sea again without sharpened hooks.

I often joke that it's easy to tell the new captains from the old captains, because only the new captains know everything. Only a rookie starts a sentence concerning offshore fishing with the phrase, “I guarantee you...” The older captains realize that anything can happen once you untie from the dock, and when the fish of the year is on the line, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Now, the obvious answer to tackle failure is only put rigs in the water once, and always have them all made out of the best possible components. That's easily done, unless of course you are burdened by a job, wife, family, or lack of unlimited funds.

The fact is, we're never going to fish a perfect spread. There's always going to be a chafed spot where the line rubbed on a outrigger pin, or a stressed piece of mono because the phone rang while you were tying a Bimini Twist. It's so easy to straighten out a wire leader that a 5 pound barracuda just put a bend in, but what happens when a 50 lb tournament winning kingfish bites down on the weak spot.

I know this much. We released our biggest blue marlin ever off Hopetown last year, and had our best trip ever. Now  I've spent all winter trying to perfect a dacron chafing loop to pull my outrigger baits from. That's because just after we released our marlin of a lifetime, we had one crash a rigger bait and make a 50W scream like I've never heard.  Thirty seconds and 500 yards later the line broke. I'll bet you can guess where.

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