© St. Petersburg Times, published November 16, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- John Smith II was joking when he told the angler leading last weekend's Suncoast Kingfish Classic to watch his back.
"I said he better keep an eye on Brutus," Smith said. "I don't think he knew what I was talking about."
Fans of William Shakespeare may recall Act III, Scene I of Julius Caesar. The Roman Emperor, thinking he was safe among friends, found himself suddenly besieged by an angry mob of senators. Caesar, bleeding from multiple stab wounds, turned to see his old fishing buddy, Brutus, standing above him clutching a fillet knife.
"Et tu, Brute?" Caesar muttered before he died. The translation: "You too, Brutus?"
"I thought it was fitting," Smith said. "It shows you never know what to expect."
How true. Especially when it comes to politics and kingfish tournaments.
Smith and his father, John Smith I, and friend Todd Ferguson, won a $100,000 boat, engine and trailer combo two weeks ago in the first major kingfish tournament of the season. Then a week later, the fishing team followed with another win and took home a second boat, engine and trailer.
"We are still in a state of shock," Ferguson said. "It takes a while to sink in."
Ferguson and the Smiths used to fish out of a boat named Brutus. When they got a new boat this year, they thought about calling it Brutus Two. But that didn't sound quite right.
So the younger Smith pulled out a phrase that had been pounded into his psyche during a high school English class.
"Et tu, Brute ... I thought it had a nice ring to it," he said. "And we thought it would be kind of funny to hear those fishermen up in North Carolina try to pronounce the name of the boat the next time we went to a national tournament."
Kingfishermen are not known as a literary crowd, but they will do some pretty strange things, even dust off an old copy of Will Shakespeare, if they think it will help them win a tournament.
"We have never been this lucky before," Ferguson said. "It seemed like we were always scrambling for last place on the leaderboard."
Two weeks ago, when a twin-engine Donzi was up for grabs, the Et Tu, Brute crew headed offshore in foul weather hoping to land one big fish.
"We took an 8-foot wave over the bow that sent the windshield flying," the younger Smith said. "We were pretty beat up before we even started fishing."
They let out their lines and quickly hooked a 35-pounder.
"We knew there were more out there," he continued. "So we kept fishing."
A short time later, another big king hit a blue runner dangled from a flat line behind the boat. Smith's father fought this fish, which would later tip the scales at 39 pounds.
"The whole way in we were worried about something breaking," Ferguson said. "It was a long ride home."
Et Tu, Brute was the first boat to weigh a fish in on Saturday. The three men sat in the bleachers and watched anxiously as boat after boat arrived with its catch, but nobody had a fish as big as theirs.
"Sunday was even rougher than Saturday," the younger Smith said. "So we didn't fish. We had too many things broken. So we just watched and waited, hoping our fish will keep the lead."
It did. All week people kept talking about the team that came out of nowhere to win the biggest boat ever offered as a prize in a West Coast kingfish tournament.
"People kept asking us if we were French," Smith II said. "I guess not a lot of people took Latin in high school."
Then one week later, the Et Tu crew weighed in another 39-pounder.
"I never had any doubts," Smith's father said. "I knew we could do it again."
Another boat, engine and trailer package for the literary crew.
"Our philosophy is either we win or we don't even place," the younger Smith said. "We'll be back."
Old Salt Fishing Club King of the Beach Tournament, $10,000 guaranteed first-place prize, Saturday and Sunday, call (727) 319-0568.