Some lean on Deepak. Others tilt to Oprah.

But when I’m in need of fundamental life lessons, I point myself in another direction.

crabsToward the song stylings of early-1970s balladeer Jim Croce, who’s already taught me these gems:

  • You don’t tug on Superman’s cape;
  • You don’t spit into the wind;
  • You don’t pull the mask off an old Lone Ranger; and
  • You don’t mess around with Jim.

It’s sage advice. And it’s helped me get through 46 years relatively unscathed.

Nevertheless, after my most recent Tween Waters Inn jaunt, I’ve decided it’s time to add another:

  • You don’t enter a guy whose angling expertise is, well… suspect, into a family fishing tournament that’s chock full of competitors who actually might know what they’re doing.

OK, so it doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as Jim’s stuff, which is probably why he had a platinum album and two No. 1 singles, and my singing career never advanced past my shower or steering wheel.

IMG_0352Still, after the four-hour Friday morning waterside shindig, my lyric-smithing was no less accurate.

I arrived on property with the wife (Danielle) and son (Ryan) the night before and properly prepped with a meal at the Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille, where not only was the food great – but a successful run at the Captiva Crab Races allowed us to sock a few bucks into the 7-year-old’s college fund.

Not to mention acquiring the gold-tinted kazoo that kept neighboring guests, and us, awake far beyond sundown.

Anyway, the subsequent sunrise brought me bleary-eyed to the resort marina, where super-helpful maritime guru Sam properly re-rigged my amateur hour Ugly Stik, and sold me both a bucket and enough live shrimp to get us through dozens of fruitless casts into the pristine waters.

Competitors were allowed to pursue fish on both the bay and gulf sides of the resort, so, after checking in with tournament record-keeper Stephen – a 6-foot-6, 250-pound alumnus of the University of Miami football program – the boy and I found a cozy, uninhabited spot on the dock to try our luck.

As it turned out, we were pretty lucky… or sort of.

To both Ryan’s and my amazement, our very first cast yielded action.

The tip of the pole plunged, and, after a 30-second struggle that only felt like a day-and-a-half, we cranked in a prize that was sure to get us to the top of the leaderboard. We hurried to Stephen to record it for posterity – not to mention bragging rights – but were crestfallen to hear a three-word phrase that ranks right up there with “Let’s be friends,” “Get lost, creep” and “Call your lawyer”:

“Catfish,” he said gravely, “don’t count.”

IMG_0358But it wasn’t quite over for us.

An afternoon ice cream social celebrated the eventual tournament winners – all of whom plucked their prizes from the gulf, incidentally, rather than the bay – and while neither Ryan nor I got our names on the plaque in the resort lobby, we’ll surely spend the next 12 months spinning tales of Loch Ness Monster-sized catfish to anyone who hasn’t read this.

Oh, and as for you fish… we’ll see ya around.

P.S. – Next year we’re bringing radar.