This is a story of a foolish bet, some major luck, an even more idiotic second bet, lots of skill, and not having enough sense to know eventually skill always beats out luck.

In my defense, I am a guy and although guys have common sense on many fronts, we also have a level of density so thick you could use it to make the floor, ceiling and three sides of a rectangular bomb shelter. So, when I made a bet with Brandon Wahlers about who was the best pargo hunter (sorry, but for the fourteenth time “cubera” for those of you on the east coast) and then actually won, I should have had the smarts to quit. But, then again, I haven’t gotten in a lot of fist fights for being smart.

It all started when Brandon and his pals Ryan Moore, Greg Minobe, and Roy McDennon started coming to the shop after class (while attending the Maritime Academy in Vallejo) to help build their own guns. They were still a bunch of goofy kids and their participation consisted mostly of the three things they were capable of: sweeping, some sanding and drinking all my beer. Ultimately, I’d like to blame my decision-making on what eventually unfolded that particular night on the beer but, in all likelihood, it was breathing the epoxy and teak dust that these guys effectively swept around the bench but never seemed to manage to get into the garbage can. In typical fashion the conversation began innocently enough; the same way it always did during the first hour of their bi-weekly visits: me making fun of the fact that they were a bunch of losers hanging out at a shop at night, building spearguns instead of chasing girls, before eventually moving on to the subject of spearfishing. After all, I can only go after low-hanging fruit for so long before I need a subject change, and it would only be a matter of time (but somehow not in the 2,000 visits), before they figured out that I was in the same boat. And on that particularly fateful night, the topic of discussion was pargo (yes, cubera! F&*K!).

We all agreed, as can the reader, that shooting pargo can be one of the trickiest and certainly one of the most dangerous types of spearfishing bright fellows such as ourselves can do. They hole up, like badgers in a cave, wreck gear like a monster truck rally, encourage bad decisions like a night at the bar (both to the point of blackout), and somehow don’t have an actual spine or brain to put a shaft through. We told hero stories (lies) about our pargo conquests, laughed at one other’s “one that got away” stories and generally talked s&*t to the point of figuratively saying “Hey! Hold ma beer an’ watch this!”
So, when I suggested that Brandon make a bet with me about who could get the biggest pargo by the end of the year, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only idiot in the room thinking, “Holy s%*t! This dumb motherf&*ker just made a bet with Brandon Wahlers!”, as well as, “And it’s about DIVING!” Now I’m pretty sure I could make a bet as to whether or not I could whoop his skinny butt in a fight and no one would take it but when it comes to diving people wouldn’t be able to get to their wallets fast enough to bet on him. Worst part about it was that I couldn’t even quit while I was behind and make it a gentlemen’s bet. Or even a monetary bet. I just had to suggest an oldie but a goodie- loser serves a beer on his knees to the winner with the quote, “Here’s your beer sir!”- spoken loudly and clearly.

This is where the stupid luck I had ridden on for so many years kicked in. On a slow tuna trip (as so many are) to Puerta Vallarta, I managed to shoot my biggest pargo to date. It weighed 67.4 pounds (yes, I know that’s a small cubera, but it’s a pretty big Pacific dog tooth snapper. Jesus, you guys never quit) and I took it in the latter part of October during the year of the bet. Brandon had shot a completely respectable 45-pounder a few months earlier in Panama but never got another chance that year. I had bested a giant. It might have been luck but I had beaten him all the same.

And this is where the luck ended. What’s the smartest thing a guy who dives to fifteen feet for fifteen seconds can do after he wins the luckiest bet of his life? Apparently, make an additional bet with a guy who can dive to 120 feet for three minutes. He knew that he would still have to swallow a little pride and serve me a beer on his knees but, ultimately, he would win on the next go-around and he couldn’t make that bet fast enough.

This time the stakes were higher. The loser would have to write an article about the winner titled, “The Best Pargo Hunter I Know”, and do it in a positive and complementary manner. We both knew that to have to say that about the other would take a battering ram to help choke down the amount of pride we would have to swallow as the loser. As part of the deal, the loser/writer wasn’t allowed to state anything in a demeaning light and that that would sting the most. As it were, it turned out to be more than just a little Neosporin for the scabs on Brandon’s knees.

In case you were wondering who won that second bet, I’m Chris Chaput and my name is under the title above, as the author. Brandon didn’t even have to try. He was smart enough to know that skill eventually always has better odds than luck and will typically prevail. When he got one, he was even kind enough to say, “I don’t know, somewhere over fifty, not that great”, knowing that he would only have to state an actual weight (that I’m sure was at least in the sixties) if I somehow miraculously managed to stretch my luck for another year. But I didn’t.

It’s strange, but even as Brandon was honoring the initial bet he had lost; while speaking those words loudly and clearly, as it turned out in front of his closest friends and a dozen of his groupies at the Legends of Spearfishing party at J&J in San Diego (I might eventually lose my luck, but never my patience for timing), I realized through the haze of my undeserved pride and seven IPAs, that the man on his knees had only lost to my luck and that this man was always the best pargo hunter I know.
Well, there you go, Brando. Sorry it took so long to make good, but somehow I think your patience for timing ain’t too shabby either. I’ll call you soon to discuss the terms of the wager for next time’s pargo bet.

Next Issue:
You’re Going to Eat A Lot of Vegetables