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24 Jun


My Love / My Boat….Captain Jimmy Vass and The “Fortune Hunter”

I met Captain Jimmy Vass about 25 years ago, just at the time I started my guide service in Wrightsville Beach, NC. It didn’t take me long to realize that Jimmy had a great sense of humor and a much greater knowledge of fishing. Being a rookie, I took advantage of his angling experiences by inviting myself to his boat after our charters. Once there, I would observe closely how they tied their rigs and many things that  helped me in my new profession. The fact is, Jimmy would have been more than glad to show me if I had only asked. That’s the kind of guy he is.

A couple of other things I loved about Jimmy was when I came out the inlet heading out for another day of charter fishing, he’d come on the radio when he caught sight of me. I’d hear him call out in his jovial way the nickname he had given me….”Hey Big Money!” He and his deck hand at the time, Jot Owens, would be trolling up and down the local beach for Spanish Mackerel. More than once, our boats would come so close together that I could tell what color Clark Spoon Jimmy was pulling, never worrying about colliding. We both knew each other’s movements thanks to the many days we had fished together. It was a time I sorely miss today!

 

Another thing I loved about Jimmy is the beautiful 31′ Bertrum sportfish boat he had. It was a 1970 model with a flybridge and V-berth. The “Fortune Hunter” was pristine and the perfect boat for nearshore fishing. However, it was not uncommon for Jimmy and his crew to take it clear to the Gulf Stream.

A number of years ago, Jimmy and a couple of his friends scrapped together enough money to enter the prestigious “Big Rock Marlin” tournament. Showing up to fish in the “Fortune Hunter” caught the eyes of  competitors and bystanders at the event. Those competitors’ eyes widened with surprise when, on a nasty day during the tournament and the wind was howling at 25 knots, Jimmy fired up “Fortune Hunter’s” engines and threw off the lines while the other competitors in the marina looked on with skepticism. As “Fortune Hunter” made its way out of the marina, one shocked competitor yelled out, “Where are you going?” Jimmy responded by yelling back….”We’re going fishing.” As he left the marine and the other big sportfishing boats, far larger than the “Fortune Hunter”, they too fired their engines and followed Jimmy and his team on a day that others would have considered a layover day for sure. This is just one of the incredible tales surrounding the “Fortune Hunter” and its owner and crew.

Over the years, Jimmy sold the “Fortune Hunter”. In fact, he sold the boat 2 times! Both times he regretted his decision. Seldom did a day go by without Jimmy missing that boat which was such an integral part of his life. In late 2023, he had another opportunity to own his beloved boat one more time. This time, Jimmy made a promise to himself and others in his family that “Fortune Hunter”  will always remain part of the family.

In March 2024, the “Fortune Hunter” will be heading out Masonboro Inlet with Jimmy Vass on the fly-bridge at the helm. Before he heads out, he’ll stroll down the dock at 5:00 am and board his boat as he had with other captains and crews from years gone by. There, he will talk to God as he  always does, rain or shine, for nearly 45 years.

On that day in March when Jimmy heads out the inlet on the boat that’s been an unforgettable part of his life, I want to be nearby. I want to see him, and “Fortune Hunter” go out that inlet like they’ve done thousands of times. When he does, I will call out on the VHF radio for “Fortune Hunter.” When I do, I know the next thing I hear is Jimmy calling out….”HEY BIG MONEY!” At that moment, I’ll know that in my small world, things are again as they should be!

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