I can safely say, without hyperbole, that this may be the hardest time I’ve ever had writing something. It took a lot of faith to write this story.
With quarantine, trying to teach Theatre Arts to a horde of middle school students via Google Classroom, helping my dad (who is only slightly less tech-savvy than I), and fighting the worst case of writer’s block I’ve every suffered, putting words down to express some sagacious thought is near impossible. Add top that that, just as I get to the point of beginning my exposition, a new crisis pops up to change the complexion of what I want to write.
As I sat here, in front of my laptop, in the throes of the writer’s bane, I began contemplating a myriad of subjects. Strangely, I began thinking of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, specifically, 13:13.
“These three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love.” This verse made me think of two names: Roland Martin and Captain Daniel Land.
Bear with me. This will take a bit of explanation.
The first fishing tournament I ever read about was the 1981 BASSMASTER Classic, which then-rookie Stanley Mitchell won in the classic Cinderella story. The writing in that old issue of BASSMASTER magazine was riveting. What held my attention the most was Don Wirth’s piece on Roland Martin’s Classic.
Martin entered the final day of the tournament with only two bass for 3 pounds 15 ounces. To say his week on the Montgomery River was disappointing is a practice in understatement. Still, he went into Championship Sunday with the same mindset he entered every tournament day. He was aggressive, tapped into the deepest wells of his expertise and experience, and fished to, at the very least, finish in contention. Martin did the only things he knew how to do: go forward, go hard, and don’t let up until the very end.
And he blanked out. He didn’t boat a single keeper bass that last day. In one last bit of Fate’s whimsy, and Martin ran back to the dock for the final weigh-in, he hit another boat’s wake, and one of his prized rod and reel combos went airborne, bounced on the deck, and disappeared into the lake.
Sometimes, the hits keep landing. You can bob, weave, cover up, but they keep landing.
Imagine that. The biggest tournament of the year. Nothing is unfolding the way Martin planned. There was no way, NO WAY, to finish as winner of the tournament. Still, he kept fishing, kept trying, kept striving. There is no doubt that Martin had faith that, in spite of long odds, his skills and knowledge would give him the greatest chance to succeed. He hoped some breaks would go his way and maybe, just maybe, he’d catch lightning and persevere. Even if he didn’t, that was okay, because he truly loved what he was doing…even if he lost that damn rod in the drink.
Faith. Hope, and Love. After all the other bushwa fell away, those three remained. Those three always remain.
We have been cooped up in our homes since March. Over 100,000 poor American souls have succumbed to this horrible virus. Our economy has taken a beating because of the social ravages of this pandemic. Civil discontent that has been simmering below the surface has boiled over in a spasm that has left buildings looted and burning in big cities all over the nation (claim it’s unrelated to the virus if you wish, but you can’t tell me that social nerves weren’t frayed to the point that one bad event wasn’t going to tip the whole mess over). People on news networks far and wide are musing that the age of American Exceptionalism is over.
And still, these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love.
There is no greater paradigm of these three values than the angler. The very act of going out on the water and soaking a bait or lure is a display of both Faith and Hope. And we do it because it is something we love, sometimes passionately and obsessively, but we love it none the less. Many a time, I’ve escaped to the water in times of pain, or tribulation, or despair. I had all three virtues restored by a few hours throwing a lure, or just sitting on the bank with a pole in my hands.
Which brings me to Captain Land. Daniel, and many other captains up and down the Texas Coast, never stopped hiring out to clients who wanted to go fishing. As he told me in a recent interview, the clients may have fallen away significantly because of the scary status reports that were disseminated by government officials on a near-daily basis at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (which, as of this writing is still pretty grim), he was still available for anyone who wanted to get some sun, air, and a chance to escape from the reality of current life.
And the fish are biting. Land and other captains are reporting fishing at level and fish of a quality that are noting short of historic. The big ones are out there, and they’re waiting. All that is left is for someone to give Captain Land or his brethren a call.
Things are scary right now; only a fool or a lunatic would deny that. But the fishing is still there. It will always be there. And where there is fishing, these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love.
And those three have always been enough to see all of us through the worst of times.