From the Sept. 14, 1982 edition of the Gazette:

You’re from Nevada, Idaho, New York city or Stockbridge — it doesn’t matter where — and you’ve never seen the Atlantic surf, let alone gone casting in it for bluefish and bass.

You’re on the Vineyard for a few days, a week, a month — you might even live here, it doesn’t matter — and you hear rumblings of the derby hoopla.

You may not know that it’s over the 37th annual Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. You may not know that the derby begins tomorrow, at the romantic and eerie time of one minute past midnight. You may not know that more than 1,500 fishermen (the term includes, of course, fisherwomen) have been waiting 11 months for the derby, since the close of last year’s tournament. You may not know that there is $60,000 in prizes and that the grand prize is a brand new four-wheel-drive CJ-7 Jeep.

You may not know the difference between a fishing guide and a guide on a rod. But somewhere along the line you caught the derby spirit.

Suddenly, you find yourself in one of the Vineyard’s fine fishing tackle shops, staring at walls and display cases of rods and reels, lures and leaders.

“Sometimes people will come in here, and we’ll ask them, ‘May we help you?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, no, just looking.’ They’ll look at all the rods and lures, and an hour and a half later will ask, ‘What do you use for fishing here?’” relates Ruth Burnham, owner of Larry’s Tackle Shop, the Edgartown shop founded by her father, Larry Meyer, in 1947.

“This is so different from, say, lake fishing in the Midwest,” she says from her shop that overlooks Edgartown harbor. “The lures we use here are bigger than some of the fish they catch in those lakes.”

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Lures are artificial bait used to catch fish. They vary widely in shape and size and color, but all have hooks that hang from underneath. Fish are lured to lures thinking, “Looks like a tasty snack.”

Striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, bonito and false albacore, who, with the fishermen, comprise the contestants for the derby, make for tasty eating. And an awful lot of fun and excitement bringing them in.

Mrs. Burnham will help you get started, as will any of the Vineyard’s other tackle shops.

First, she’ll try to talk you into renting gear, to test whether or not the sport is really for you. If it is, she’ll outfit you with an 11-foot pole, a good reel, 17-pound test line, a package of leaders, a couple of lures, a demonstration in the harbor in back, and words of encouragement. It will set you back $115, and it will spell a lot of fishing fun.

For shore fishing for the beginner fisherman, Mrs. Burnham suggests the use of lures; bait fishing comes later for most.

Lures, known also as plugs and poppers, stay near the surface for bluefish. For striped bass, also known as stripers, they sink. Since bluefish are far more abundant than stripers, bluefish fishing is advisable for beginners.

Mrs. Burnham will show you the basic knots used to attach the leader, two feet or so of heavy duty line attaching the regular line to the lure. The knots are easy.

You don an old pair of sneakers, bring a pair of needle-nosed pliers and a sharp knife, and head out to a beach, any beach — fish are not discriminatory.

At Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick on any given day you’ll find many fishermen, experienced and inexperienced. Some will cast with effortless grace; others will send their casts careening to the side or flailing at their toes. Go placidly; never fish barefoot.

Some fish purely for the thrill of catching the fish, or for other basic joys, without any plans of keeping the fish. These fishermen, Mrs. Burnham suggests, should bend back the barbs of the hook, the sharp, backward-pointing projection, with pliers. Such a hook ca still catch fish, but is easier to remove and causes less injury.

For the competitors, the weigh-in station this year is at the Dockside Marketplace in Oak Bluffs.

For the competitive, Jack Koontz, a veteran fisherman sometimes known as Derby Jack to those who have been taking his charter fishing boats out for the past 10 years, offers this general advice.

Most of the bass caught recently have been with live bait. Particularly good is menhaden, also known as moss bunker. They can be caught from a boat or from shore. The important variable is the time the fisherman puts in.

Fishing advice on the Vineyard, as elsewhere, is vague. Fish, like musicians and nightclub proprietors, lead complicated, unpredictable lives, subject to last-minute change.

Mr. Koontz does advise that bass tend to be nocturnal. Therefore, those who catch them with consistency tend to be nocturnal, too.

Ask Ed Jerome, derby committee chairman. Or better yet, observe carefully Mr. Jerome as he comes bleary-eyed through the doors of the Edgartown School in the early morning hours during the next month, derby month.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox