Who needs ‘Old Wives Tales’ when you’ve got ‘Old Fisherman’s Tales.’ The Superstition of Bananas aboard Sportfishing vessels actually began as folklore among Mariners. Having nothing to do with the successes or failures of Trolling for dinner, Snopes.com got it wrong. The article by Snopes (by all accounts a great online publishing space, #FightForFacts), like so many others written on the topic, reached inaccurate conclusions.
They surmised, in part, that bananas became bad luck and thus created a superstition among Anglers because bananas spoil so quickly. Due to the hasty maturation of the harvested fruit ships had to travel at much faster speeds to deliver the perishable cargo. These additional Knots (i.e. nautical speeds) thereby impacted the success of crewmembers normally triumphant in their ‘Trolling’ pursuits while in transit. They were now dragging lures too quickly for pelagic fish to take the bait. Thus, bananas = bad luck and the superstition born. This narrative overlooks a few very important points.
- Number one (1): Wooden ships from the 18th century (1701-1800) had average speeds of 4 To 5 knots. Even if you double that average speed to 9 knots (6 to 12 being an optimal range), this would still be a perfect pace to catch Mahi, Tuna, and a whole host of other pelagic predators that swim the seas now and at the time.
- Number two (2): Although fishing and fishing hooks proper have a history dating back 40,000+ thousand years, there is no known record of Anglers using Trolling techniques or Trolling-style lures dating back any further than the past 100 years (not using planer boards or flat-lining). No written record of trolling spoons, or plugs (made from wood), or meat rigs (a cross-technique of using both artificial and bait fish) either.
- Number three (3): Even if our seafaring/sea fearing ancestors would have been flat-lining barbed hooks with live bait attached their efforts would have produced less than palatable and certainly not auspicious results. The speed of the ship combined with the buoyancy of the baitfish would have meant their lures dragging across the top of the waves instead of within the ideal pelagic zone of the upper water column.
After taking into consideration both historical context and factual fishing technique timelines what’s more realistic is that our good Deckhands turned Fishermen were ‘Trawling’ and not ‘Trolling.’ What’s the diff you ask? A big one. Trawling, a netting technique dates back to at least the 1300s and uses no fishing tackle at all [https://news.mongabay.com/2014/05/trawling-destructive-fishing-method-is-turning-seafloors-to-deserts/ Trawling could have very well produced sea fare at 4 knots. Any faster however, as in when bananas are aboard, and pressure waves build up in front of the net causing the game you’re targeting to move out and away from the net.
It’s just as likely that the superstition of bananas being bad luck on a boat had little to nothing to do with fishing at all. Bunches of bananas (if you haven’t seen them, look like a green/yellow, upside down spruce tree), found in tropical climates, are well known for harboring all sorts of disease carrying murids and venomous arachnids. This, in addition to a myriad of insects, and hosts of bat species. These rabid chiropterans, perilous rodents and treacherous spiders, coming out of the proverbial woodwork, would have been sure to elicit pejorative folklore.
As for my comrades in the business of manufacturing fishing lures I conclude the following. You’ll never convince a superstitious charter boat captain or dogmatic freelance Angler that bananas aren’t bad luck, so don’t try. Old Anglers’ Tales run deep. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend naming your company ‘Bananas,’ or anything remotely sounding like banana, or anything remotely related to bananas. For god’s sake, definitely don’t write a fishing article about bananas, lol. Feel free to embrace the absurdity, but don’t make it into a YouTube channel, Brand logo, or Company motto anytime soon.
Happy fish and Tight lines. Welcome to the Evolution,
Article written by Mike Hiller