Mike Stevens – KNEE DEEP

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Thursday, October 25, 2018
On the water with Strike King and Lew’s
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Tackle Shopping Torture

One trip on the Prowler
One of my favorite fishing stories is one of my oldest, and it has little to do with fishing. It was more of a humorous tale of “survival” set aboard the Prowler. I’ve never written about it, and I figure now is probably a good time to do so.


I was 19-years-old and working part time for Bob’s Bait and Tackle in Escondido. If that wasn’t dating myself enough, it was 1996…’97 tops. I had never been on anything longer than a 3/4-day, but a steady stream of customers were coming through the shop, and it seemed like each one of them was raving about overnight-trip yellowfin and dorado – which seems normal now but at the moment it was a big deal.

I reached my breaking point and decided to jump on my first overnighter, solo, that night. From right there in the shop, I started calling the landings and each of them told me all the open-party trips were sold out. Eventually, one of these calls revealed a limited-load overnight trip, and it was aboard Buzz Brizendine’s Prowler.

Typically, this type of story ends with “So I went out and caught a limit of tuna and dorado, and I grew up to be an overnight partyboat legend!” but that’s not exactly how it played out. You see, that “limited load” thing was going to play a huge part in why this is a trip story that still comes up way more often than those of subsequent outings where I caught way more fish.

The open-party trips I was chasing were $99, give or take. Limited load trips were around $140, and this starving journalism student was making $6 an hour working part time and had $150 to his name, before buying the ticket. Looking back just over two decades, the details are hazy, but I don’t remember why I didn’t bum a 20 off someone, or at the very least, pack a lunch, but I know for some reason I was not in a position to do either.

So, I boarded the Prowler with ten bucks, a Penn Powerstick/Jigmaster combo, a custom Calstar 210 I bought used and matched with a Daiwa Sealine 30 I scored via birthday money and the employee discount. The reason that ten-spot was untouchable was I knew I’d need it to get fish filleted at the end of the trip, and I found myself almost hoping I wouldn’t catch too many. I’d yet to catch an “exotic,” even a yellowtail, so the thought of driving home with whole fish I’d have to fillet myself already had me anxious, and we hadn’t even untied yet.

The fishing was good not great, but my mission was accomplished when I broke the ice with one of the first fish landed that day: a respectable bull dorado that I eventually brought to gaff with that noodle-of-a-Calstar. I’d catch another smaller dodo later in the day, and that was that.

I have a theory on why boat burgers are so good. It’s not the ingredients. I’ve seen galleys stocked a thousand times. It’s usually from Smart and Final or Costco. Sure there is a bit of magic from the cook, but I think when you’re fishing, you simply don’t realize how hungry you are. As soon as you’re done fishing and heading back to the barn, that’s when the starvation hits you. That was the point I was at on the Prowler.

Famished with a 100-plus mile run home ahead of me and my last $10 earmarked for fillets, a mild panic came over me. I tried to sleep through it, but it wasn’t happening. I remember going into the galley and being surprised no one was hanging out in there, so I started snooping around. I wasn’t going to steal anything, but don’t really know what I was hoping to find.

Sweet salvation arrived in the form of those twin packs of saltines you get with cheap side salads, and single serving Knott’s Berry Farm jelly packs. They were neatly stacked in those wire racks like you’d see on a table in a breakfast joint. I must have made a dozen saltine and jelly mini sandwiches, and by that time, they tasted as good as any galley burger.

I don’t think I ever rode on the Prowler again, for no other reason than the group of anglers I fell in with were loyal to another landing. What I do know, is even 22 years later, that’s all I think about when I see those saltine two-packs and one-shot jellies. That noodle Calstar is still my go-to stick for slinging pinhead ’chovies. Tackle shop guys made fun of it until the ‘chove was all we had and they all started borrowing it.

I took my saltwater fishing to the next level aboard the Prowler, and it looks like I won’t be able to circle back and take another ride on her again like I had always imagined. For my story, the fishing was a side note, but it’s a trip I’ll never forget aboard a boat that played a role in my fishing evolution.

What is it about boats?

Feel free to send in your story about fishing aboard the Prowler. Not sure what I will do with them when they arrive, but I’ll think of something. Send to

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