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Perhaps it was the work of some higher power, or maybe it was just coincidence, but whatever it was for several years when any of us made plans to fish on a given night we each secretly hoped that the other guy would cancel at the last minute.
By Toby Lapinski
While fishing solo often requires a "selfie" to document the night's catch, sometimes there is a benefit to having your partner cancel on you at the last minute.

Going back a few years, it seemed like an entire season was against me. This was a year where it seemed like every time I zigged, the striped bass would zag. If I threw all my cards into the ebb on Tuesday night, the fish would move through on the flood on Wednesday morning. There seemed to be a force in the universe that was preventing me from crossing paths with a respectable striped bass despite my best efforts. Was I being punished for a fish story I might have embellished just a little bit the previous winter over one too many Guinness? Or perhaps I had a higher calling this year in that it was my year to be part of something special for my fellow anglers and lay the groundwork for some epic fishing to come.

As the season progressed I could do little more than laugh at my seemingly endless misfortunes. June and July rolled past and I was unable to land a striped bass over the 20-pound mark, a feat which in previous years was almost a given by the first week of May. August marched in and I just knew my luck would change. I received a call from one of my fishing partners a few days prior to the new moon and we made plans to hit a local point for the ebb and swim eels through the rip. The chosen night arrived; I sped home from work, had a bite to eat and sat down on the couch to kill some time before I set out for the night. A few reruns of The Simpsons later and I was in no mood to don a wetsuit and join my friend in the surf. I gave him a call to let him know not to expect me and I bid him luck. Secretly I hoped he wouldn’t find life in the surf that night, but I still told him to call me in the morning with his results.

I awoke the next morning to several missed calls and a text message on my cell phone that simply read “super cow”. I put off returning his call for as long I could stand. Not knowing if he was messing with me or if he had truly gone large, I begrudgingly called his number up on speed dial and hit send. After the usual pleasantries he filled me in on the details of the 40-plus-pound striped bass he had landed the night before. As predicted, a body of large fish had moved into the region and he landed several bass in the 20- to 30-pound class topped off by the 40-plus. Before hanging up I swore I would not bail on him next time.

A few weeks passed and I was still unable to land a decent fish. As the full moon approached, a time when we as surfcasters often have a difficult time locating large striped bass, a tropical storm formed and pushed on past New England. This set up a pattern of wind, rain and cloud cover that would serve to cancel the effects of the bright full moon. The angler from earlier once again contacted me to fish the spot from which he landed the last super cow. I agreed that the following night would be a good choice and we planned to meet at the top of the tide. Again the night came and again I planted my behind in front of the television to kill some time before setting out for the night. This time I let my wife choose the programming so as to avoid getting too comfortable and risk losing the drive to fish. Unfortunately it was mother nature who took care of my excuse this time around as a thunderstorm popped up just as I was going to leave my house and gave me the reason I needed to stay home. I called my friend and told him the good news: I would be staying home once again.

Roughly seven hours later I awoke to the sound of a text message being received by my cell phone. I rolled over and checked the message. “Again with the super cow” I mumbled. I threw the phone, grabbed a glass of water and quickly fell back to sleep. When my alarm sounded of at 6 the next morning, I awoke and dressed for work all but forgetting about my friend’s supposed success. I eventually gave in once again and called him. As luck would have it, he landed one fish the night before; a striped bass of 45 pounds from the same rock as earlier in the month. On two successive outings in which I had cancelled on my fishing partner he proceeded to go large without me. It was eating me up inside!

This season went on to be known as the year in which “The Curse” was born. I have written about it before, but for those unaware of the details for several seasons there was a running joke that any time, and I mean ANY TIME one of us would cancel on a trip the guy that stuck it out and fished would go large. The curse resulted in no less than fifteen 40-plus-pound striped bass and at least one over 50 pounds between us before its effect began to slowly diminish. While we respect its powers to this day, the strength of the curse is not quite as strong as it used to be. Perhaps it was the work of some higher power, or maybe it was just coincidence, but whatever it was for several years when any of us made plans to fish on a given night we each secretly hoped that the other guy would cancel at the last minute.

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