How much better can life possibly be? I live in the middle of paradise and fish in world-class waters just outside my backyard. So, when I headed offshore with my buddy Dan, I was sure the day would be one to remember. Since the mahi-mahi have been around, we headed offshore for our usual haunts around 20 miles offshore.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the preparation required to assure a good outing, and those thoughts entered my mind again as we cruised on plane. I guess that’s because I’m coming up on a major, 600-hour maintenance. My Suzuki four-stroke engine has been basically problem-free since I purchased it. Knock on fiberglass and gelcoat-covered wood.

I also have a maintenance project I’m taking on myself. My midships bilge pump is in a ridiculously difficult place to reach. Years ago, (seven to 10?) and the same number of years younger, I was able to finagle my way into this spot and somehow install a new pump without hurting myself too bad. This year when I tried to change the pump again, I paid the price in bruises, carpet burns, fiberglass itches and several sore muscles and bones. Am I getting old? Or am I getting better? No response to this question is necessary. I’ve already decided.

I usually finish things I set my mind to, so I attacked the problem looking for a solution. Fortunately, the bilge pump is in a perfect spot for me to install an access hatch that will make this whole thing, almost pleasant. Well, at least pleasant compared to the first time I tried.

I have also been thinking about necessary preparations for the upcoming fishing trip. One thing I have really come to love, is perfectly prepared pre-rigged ballyhoo on bead chain rigs.

Usually, I rig ‘em myself. And lately, since the purchase of my Ballyhoop, I even catch them myself. I’ve always enjoyed rigging with beaded chains and maybe spend a little more time than most, to make them the best they can possibly be. Back in 2008, I produced a seven-minute video that still plays on YouTube. I’m amazed every time I look at it, over the number of views it has garnered. Right now, it’s been seen 67,000 times. How cool is that? I would have never even imagined there are 67,000 people on this earth who know what beaded-chain-rigged ballyhoo are. Let alone go through the trouble to seek out information on how to do it.

I guess, everybody gotta eat, everybody gotta rig ballyhoos. Right? You can see the video by searching for “Geotis beaded chain rigging” on YouTube.

So now, I might get a little bit obsessive-compulsive. I love to make my rigged ballyhoo look great. Look special. So, when I’m done rigging, I dust them with non-iodized salt and baking soda, line them up nice in vacuum-seal bags and push the vacuum button. There’s just something about reaching into your bait chest and finding pristine looking bait. It reminds me of the bait boxes I’ve seen at big-time, big-bucks fishing tournaments.

Now, I might as well get back to the fishing trip. This whole year has been strange as far as fishing goes. The mahi-mahi season seemed to come in early, then went away for a little while, then came back. Somedays the waters near, and of, the Gulf Stream have had lots of weeds one week and none the next. The fish have been sometimes near floating debris, sometimes in the scattered weeds, sometimes outside the weeds, and the beat goes on.

Right now, it seems the fish are back under the birds. Or are the birds back above the fish? This will cause a few sleepless nights, I’m sure. We ran out until we found the Gulf Stream. Then we cruised around searching for birds. We didn’t have much luck with that, so we slowed to trolling speed and dragged five baits behind the boat. As we passed a big thickly formed weed patch, we saw mahi swimming just under the edge of the patch. Two lines got hit and we released two fish just over legal size.

We hung around this area for a while and only saw small fish. We pulled the lines and headed for deeper water. Up ahead we saw a couple of birds circling high in the sky. We slowed down and put the lines back out. At first working under, and around the birds didn’t work. We changed speeds and direction of motion. We sped up and slowed down. We spotted more birds. They were working a little closer the surface of the water. We trolled toward them.

Ping, zoom, one of the rigged ballyhoos got hit and a nice mahi jumped behind the boat. We started laughing, happy to finally be hooked up to a quality fish. It didn’t take long, and we boated him. We worked the area for a while, boated a couple more fish and decided to call it a day. We had plenty of mahi for both of us.

As we motored home, we kept our eyes out for any signs of fish. We stopped a few times, all the way back to the reef, then on to home. We had a great day fishing. Great same-day-fresh mahi for dinner and life is good in the Florida Keys; life is very good in the Florida Keys.

C.J. Geotis is a life-long fisherman who followed his dream 20 years ago to live in the Florida Keys. His book, Florida Keys Fish Stories, is available at Amazon.com. He lives in Marathon with his wife, Loretta, and her Coca-Cola collection. His email is fishstoriescj@comcast.net.