Are Bananas Bad Luck?

Whether you believe in luck or not, bring a banana on your next fishing trip and you may just get tossed overboard.

Are Bananas Bad Luck?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons - Steve Hopson)

Most anglers have heard of the superstition that bananas on board a boat will lead to a bad day of fishing at the very least and could also lead to mechanical failures. Some take that belief even further and will ban anything containing banana or even depictions of bananas, such as Banana Boat sunscreen. But where does all the hate for an otherwise appreciated, potassium-rich snack come from? Does it have any merit? 

I did some digging into the origins of this fishing legend and found a few plausible explanations. The most commonly cited explanation has to do with a banana’s buoyancy. Nowadays, if you have problems on your boat, you radio or call for help and someone usually shows up to offer assistance. A few centuries ago, that wasn’t the case. Ships transporting bananas had to travel fast to deliver their cargo before the bananas went brown and lost their value. Some of those ships never made landfall and, once capsized, the most prevalent debris floating in the area of the shipwreck would be the bananas. Wreck after wreck, those first on the scene were greeted with the sight of entire shipments of bananas bobbing on the waves. 

Another explanation more closely tied to general bad fishing with bananas on board has to do with the speed of the ships carrying bananas. If you’ve ever “rediscovered” a lost or forgotten banana, you probably did so with your nose first. They smell. To prevent their precious cargo from spoiling, banana boats had to move faster than other shipping vessels at the time. If you’ve ever done any trolling, you know how critical boat speed is to your success. Sometimes slowing the boat down, even just a little bit, can be enough to trigger a strike. Sailors often wet a line when they had free time on board the ships, but legend has it they enjoyed little success if they happened to be fishing from a banana boat. That lack of success was attributed to the speed of the boat being too fast for trolling. 

One of my guilty pleasures is watching people get busted trying to smuggle foods through international ports of entry on the various Border Patrol shows. The agents make it very clear that foods, and fruits especially, are a hitchhiking pest’s first-class ticket to a new land. Bananas are harvested in massive bunches that are home to all sorts of creepy crawlies. Spiders, snakes, biting insects. Is your skin crawling yet? While not necessarily a major concern today, especially if packing a single banana, those primal fears are hard for some to overcome. In fact, entomophobia (fear of insects) and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) are two of the most common phobias across the world. Like the bad luck associated with fishing on banana boats, the legend of an extra dose of pests on board the banana boats likely has some truth to it. 

In conclusion, as long as you’re not driving your boat too fast and check your bananas for unwelcome guests before boarding, bringing a banana on a boat shouldn’t decrease your odds of success. But, then again, why take a chance? Part of fishing is having confidence in your techniques and being optimistic. If you or your captain are the least bit superstitious, it’s best to leave the bananas at home. It may not help you catch any more fish, but you won’t be blamed for ruining the trip for your choice of snack. 


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