ST. PETERSBURG — Cleaning out my garage one day recently, I noticed a pair of old baitcasters sitting there with the rest of my fishing rods.
I bought the outfits a decade or more ago after tarpon fishing with my friend Bob Puccinelli. "Pooch," as he is called by his friends, and Todd Wood, collectively known as the Fishing Dudes, co-hosted a popular radio show on 1010-AM for 13 years.
We were chasing tarpon in Charlotte Harbor one spring morning, I with my spinning rod, Pooch with his baitcaster. To make a long story short: Puccinelli could toss a MirrOlure about as twice as far as I could, and by the time the day ended, my friend had convinced me that I should join the baitcasting brethren.
So I ran out and bought two top-of-the-line rod and reel combos. But then they sat there in my garage, collecting dust, for more than 10 years. Baitcasting, it appeared, like the Mambo, was something I would never master.
So I called another friend, Dave Bayes, manager of Seminole-based Dogfish Tackle, a Pied Piper of pier rats all across Pinellas County. Like so many of the Tampa Bay area's better fishermen (Dave Mistretta, Ed Walker and Dwayne Somers, to name a few), Bayes grew up fishing the old Indian Rocks Pier.
"Do you know any kids who might need a couple of fishing rods?" I asked.
The rods were in great shape. The only use they ever got was when I would pick them up as I would tell a friend of my plans to become an expert baitcaster, as soon as I learned to dance the Mambo.
Bayes, who knows all the teenage fishing addicts within 100 miles, took the rods and vowed to put them to good use. I had forgotten all about them until last week, when I received two cards in the mail postmarked Madeira Beach.
At first I thought they might be birthday cards from some adoring fans. But I remembered that I don't have any adoring fans. I opened them anyway.
"I would thank you on a boat, I would thank you with a goat, in the park or at the zoo," the first card read.
Inside, a youngster named Brad Williams, explained that he had received one of my old rods and used it to place second in the release division of a local tarpon tournament.
The second card had a picture of what I believe was a Yorkshire terrier in a mask and snorkel with the inscription "deepest thanks."
Inside, a youngster named Bryan Briggette, explained that he had received one of my old rods and used it to win first place in the release division of a local tarpon tournament.
My first thought was to call Pooch and tell him that the rods had gone to good use after all. But then I would have to admit that I had failed in my mission to become a marksman with a baitcaster and, I might add, master of the Mambo. So I decided against it, until I at least learned a few steps of the Cuban dance.
Still, the entire episode left me feeling pretty good. And this holiday season, I vow to go through all my stuff and "recycle" all the gear I do not use.
If you are like me, you might have a dozen fishing rods sitting in the corner next to that old stack of Tito Puente records.
Do yourself a favor. Pass on some of those unused fishing poles to some kid who will use them. And while you are at it, give those discs a spin.
Take it from this Papa Who Loves Mambo dancing, it isn't half as hard as firing a plug at a passing tarpon.
Just take one step left and one step right, one to the front and one to the side, clap your hands once and clap your hands twice, and if it looks like this then you doin' it right.
Heartfelt thanks go out to my friends Pooch, Dave, Brad, Bryan, Tito and, of course, Lou Bega.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at (727) 893-8808.