By Andrew Cremata

I was sixteen years old, jogging around my neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, about an hour after sunrise. Even though it was early morning, the humidity was stifling and my clothes were entirely drenched in sweat. 

It was garbage pickup day. Most homeowners had set out their trash cans the night before. The garbage truck beeped and growled in the distance, its sound muffled by the heavy air. 

Only two blocks away from home, I turned onto a side street and saw something that brought me to an abrupt stop. 

Perfectly perched on a banged-up metal trash can was a brand-new tackle box – a high-end model with multiple drawers and a spacious upper compartment adorned with a latch and handle. Not even the manufacturer’s stickers had been removed. 

My mind began to race. 

Had the homeowner gone on a fishing trip at sunrise and absent-mindedly left the tackle box sitting on the trash can while loading their fishing gear into their car? Did an angry spouse toss it in the trash to punish a spouse with a wandering eye? Would taking the apparently unwanted tackle box be considered stealing?

After pondering the situation, I decided that the tackle box must have been left on the garbage can accidentally. 

I hurried up the driveway and knocked on the front door of the house. A woman in her mid to late forties answered. She was dressed in a nightgown and her hair was disheveled as though she’d just stumbled out of bed.

“May I help you?”

Still out of breath, I said, “Hi. I’m sorry if I woke you up. I was jogging past your driveway and noticed the tackle box sitting on the garbage can and wondered if it was being thrown away?”

Frowning, the woman said, “Yes. I’m throwing it away because I bought it for my son but apparently, he’s too busy to visit his mother. You can have it if you want.”

“Thank you!”

The angry mother wasn’t finished. “And since he’s too busy to visit his mother on his birthday, I guess he doesn’t need a birthday present.”

I looked at my watch.

She continued, “Do you like fishing?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“My son used to go fishing all the time. Now all he does is hang out with that girl.”

Taking a step back, I said, “Well, thanks again.”

“I’m glad a nice young man will get some enjoyment out of my son’s present. Feel free to stop by sometime and tell me about all the fish you catch.”

Turning, I waved and said, “Okay. Goodbye!”

It was the last time I jogged down that particular street.

Stumbling upon a brand-new tackle box seemed like incredible luck – but my luck was about to get even better. When I picked the tackle box up off the garbage can, I quickly realized that it was packed full of gear. 

Every compartment was full of hooks, weights, swivels and lures. The upper compartment held a bridge gaff and an assortment of small tools, fishing line and a handheld fish identification book. I estimated the total value of the gear at somewhere around $350. 

In the top compartment of the tackle box was a brand new 7-inch long red and white deep-diving Bomber lure. It was still in the box. 

As the years passed, most of the tackle ended up lost somewhere on the rocky bottom of Tampa Bay. Even the tackle box eventually fell apart after the hinges corroded from frequent use near salt water. 

Somehow, the Bomber lure survived despite catching a wide assortment of fish including my first-ever snook and a 175-pound tarpon with a particularly nasty disposition. 

Ten years after obtaining the tackle box, I traveled to Skagway for the first time. I brought along few possessions other than a suitcase full of clothes, two fishing rods and a box full of fishing tackle. 

My prized Bomber lure was buried deep inside the box, which is exactly where it stayed for twenty-six years.

Last summer, while cleaning out my shed, I came across a tattered cardboard box deep inside a plastic storage container cleverly marked, “Fishing Gear.” After sorting through a half-dozen rusted lures, all tangled together by a crow’s nest of monofilament fishing line, I saw the old Bomber lure. 

Picking it up and turning it over in my hand exposed the plug’s many scratches, each a testament to its storied history. My mind flooded with memories … A massive tarpon leaping high into the air, thrashing wildly in a conflagration of water droplets and ocean spray. A 35-inch snook inhaling the plug as it sat motionless on the surface of a mangrove-lined backwater at 7 a.m. on Christmas Day. An angry mother whose birthday present for her son somehow ended up in the hands of a random stranger.

The three treble hooks were rusted so I replaced them with shiny new hooks and placed the lure in the tackle box I use for northern pike. 

A week later, I was fishing for pike in Atlin with two friends visiting from Seattle. 

After rigging a couple of large red and white spoons onto my guest’s fishing rods, I noticed the Bomber lure resting conspicuously in the bottom compartment of the tackle box, its new silver treble hooks sparkling in the summer sunlight.

One cast.


The pike seemed to hit the lure before it reached the water. 

Since that day in Atlin, I keep thinking about the strange journey of my seven-inch red and white Bomber lure.

Against all odds, it somehow survived a host of angry fish, thousands of miles of travel, and even the bottomless abyss of my storage container.

It’s also a solid reminder that it’s time to pay mom a visit.