I have fished with my friend Brad Kayholm of Wham Bam Charters for so long and with such success that I have assigned him mystical powers.

How can a kid of 30 and an import from Michigan no less get so good so fast? In order to become an expert in the inshore, the fresh water and the off shore did he have to pull a Shakespeare Rod from a stone, King Arthur fashion? Was the kid hit by benevolent lightning?

No one I have ever known has acquired so much fishing knowledge so quickly and that includes myself. Whatever I know, it took a half century to learn.

On our most recent trip I finally found a chink in his armor. Actually it may not have even been a fair test, but I must admit I found some satisfaction in finally locating some normalcy in young Brad.

The plan was to do a shakedown cruise on the new off shore fishing boat Brad and his pop Rick had bought only two days earlier. When he asked me along I was more than a bit apprehensive. Take a boat they had never driven to head into the Atlantic 20 miles east of Ponce Inlet seemed like a fool's folly on my part. What could go wrong? The list of possibilities was a long one.

When Brad called to ask me along, he was his usual exuberant self and told me the plan was to try out his new boat on the opening day of red snapper season. I made the long drive down to New Smyrna Beach and arrived at the ramps at a quarter to five.

We knew there would be a crowd, but I never imagined what I found. Cars and boats all over the place. Around 70 vessels were trying to launch at once. Wild! The 28-foot Scout was as nice as Brad had told me. Finely appointed and comfortable.

A friend, Jonathan, joined Rick, Brad and I for the trip. We motored under the big NSB north bridge in the dark and was soon four boats abreast as we all headed for the inlet. The Atlantic was more than a little choppy and when Brad powered up the two big 225 horse Yamahas, the Scout jumped up on a plane.

By the time the sun came up we were 15 miles out and riding heavy seas. With five-foot rollers coming in very close together, it was a rough ride. Salt spray drenched me, burned my eyes and glued my hair down.

One of the first problems we encountered is Capt. Brad had not found the time to enter the needed way points into the navigation system. We had to search for bottom structure. No matter the big TV-like fish finder was showing us the bottom very clearly.

Of course, clusters of boats gave away the wrecks and artificial reefs somewhat. Our plan was to watch the others to see who was nailing the snapper. No luck there. We finally dropped down some big boy bait. Whole blue crabs and six- to seven-inch croakers. No takers. Rick baited with squid and began pulling up small vermilion snapper and reef fish.

Jonathan and I couldn't find a hit. This would repeat all morning long. Finally we called it and started back. Just east of Ponce a siren woke me from my slumber. Sure enough, the crew of a Coast Guard Cutter wanted to board us. With no snapper on board, they began to concentrate on us and the boat. They ran our IDs, checked our licenses and safety equipment and found no violations.

That took about a half hour and lasted until a big thunderhead arrived to drench us. As we pulled away one of the engines conked out. After a little investigating. we realized it was a fuel pump problem. Not good. We limped in.

After more than a dozen great trips with Wham Bam Charters. I had finally over stayed my welcome. Now that he has that one out of the way know that Capt. Brad will soon be his invincible self. Give him a call (386) 314-8553 for a trip with the Mystic Knight of the Sea.

Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.

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