“No Bananas on the Boat” and Other Fishing Superstitions

“No Bananas on the Boat” and Other Fishing Superstitions

Any bad day of fishing can be blamed on the violation of a superstition. That is until you run out of superstitions. Fortunately, for every bad outcome, there are at least a few well-known beliefs that could’ve caused it and a seemingly endless list of superstitions unique to regions, groups of friends, or even individuals to blame if all else fails. Do any of these actually hold water? We decided to explore some of the best-known fishing superstitions and look at whether they’re tradition, something mystical, or actually rooted in science, if not experience.

No Bananas on Board

While shore and wade anglers may never encounter this one, anyone who has stepped on a boat to fish or sail has likely heard it. The origin of the “No Bananas on the Boat” superstition is unclear, but some believe it started in the Caribbean, where bananas were associated with death and misfortune. Today, it seems that if a banana does make it on board, anything bad that happens can be blamed on it. Whether you encounter a messy tangle in your nymphing rig on a river float, or you have engine trouble on a fall inshore trip, a smuggled banana is the culprit.

Common sense and science say there’s no way a banana could cause bad luck, but this is still one of the most tightly held superstitions in all of fishing, and we wouldn’t be caught dead breaking this rule (especially on another captain’s boat). So before you step onto your next boat, make sure your bananas are stored safely at home. We’re serious — don’t even throw one in your truck for later as it could accidentally end up on the boat.

Don’t Say “Wind"

Would you like to hear a figurative record scratch while fishing in the middle of nowhere? Simply announce to your group, “I’m sure glad it’s not windy!” Even saying the word “wind” out of context is grounds for a shunning. This fishing superstition is on par with talking about a no-hitter or perfect game, as it’s happening, in baseball. Don’t do it.

The accepted belief is that if one mentions the wind when it’s not windy, the wind will pick up and ruin the fishing, if not make boating outright dangerous. And although no one can control the wind with their words, we’d estimate that this superstition plays out a majority of the time it’s initiated, anecdotally. Which means that while a violation of the wind superstition may not be grounds for the brig, you may not get invited on the next fishing trip.

Lucky Hats

While Bill Dance didn’t invent the Lucky Hat superstition, he certainly has the most iconic lucky fishing hat. His orange and white University of Tennesee Volunteers hat may be one of the most important symbols in all of bass fishing, or even fishing in general. But long before Bill hit the airwaves, our ancestors were worshiping their own lucky fishing hats. And whether it’s a mesh trucker hat, a modern five-panel cap, or a visor, we’re willing to bet you have your own.

Don’t Step Over the Rods

This one has two parts, one based in fact and the other purely superstition. The fact is that stepping over rods increases the risk of breaking them. You may be able to step over them without incident a hundred times, but it takes only one misstep to snap a beloved rod. We can probably all remember the warning from our fishing mentors: “Do you want a broken rod? Because stepping over rods is how you break them.” Well, they’re right. 

The second part of this superstition is that stepping over rods can cause bad luck. Yes, breaking a rod is bad luck, but this takes the fact-based wisdom further to blame all future misfortunes on the rule violation. It is, again, similar to the other sport of superstitions, baseball, and the belief that stepping on a foul line will cause bad luck. The greater threat may not be true, but the loss of a rod is reason enough to follow this superstition.

Never Leave Fish To Find Fish

We reached out to Barrett Rhymes, guide at No Name Fly Lodge in Boquerón, Puerto Rico, for some additional fishing superstitions and he gave us this classic one: “Never leave fish to find fish.” It’s so true, and rooted in science, that it might not be considered a superstition by most anglers. The only thing working against it is when you happen to leave fish to find fish and you in fact do find more fish, making you think this saying might not be true. But those examples are as much luck as anything else, and not leaving fish to find fish has science on its side.

All fish rely on food sources and ideal conditions for their survival. The kind of food and the conditions may vary from species to species, but if you’re finding your target species in one spot, then it’s likely the food and habitat are supporting those fish being there in numbers, and not somewhere else with less-favorable conditions. If you’ve found fish, you’ve already either lucked out and probably won’t be that lucky twice in a day, or you’ve done the proper planning to know that the fish would be right there. Which brings us to one final piece of advice from Barrett: “Proper preparation outworks luck.”

Do you have some fishing superstitions of your own? Whether they’re well-known ones we missed or beliefs you’ve developed on your own, shoot us a message and let us know what crazy rules we should be following to catch more fish!

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