By Captain Scott “Fraz” Murie
In the last few years, fishing in the northern Gulf of Mexico has evolved into a high-tech business. The tournament fishing has changed dramatically. Back in the day, most tournaments had boundary lines and perimeters that you had to stay within.
For instance, you could not fish west of this point or east of that point or south of some other point.
Tournament boundaries were meant to keep the competition even, but that’s old school thinking. Today with the technology, speed, fuel and bait available to captains, you can fish anywhere you want.
To compete in today’s Gulf tournaments, you really need the right tools. Speed is one tool that gives you great advantage over the old “slow boat to China.” Also, lots of fuel. It’s not unusual to see boats loaded with 1500 gallons of fuel bladders in their cockpits and strapped to their bows. If you have the fuel, it enables you to venture off 300 miles in one direction to fish oil platforms and oil rigs that have seen little fishing pressure. The days of trolling the lumps, spurs and canyons, hoping and poking along during a tournament, are pretty much gone unless you’re the one on the “slow boat to China.”
Then there is the coveted sonar, like the Furuno CSH8. These tools provide extreme advantage – allowing you to track fish 360-degrees around the boat. You can pick up one of these units for a hundred plus grand!
Another must-have tool are tuna tubes. Not just two or four, but 12 or 20 – so you always have live bait ready and waiting. The more tubes you have, the less time you have to spend catching bait, and therefore more time marlin fishing.
All of these advancements do not come without their downside. I’ve seen a lot of boats fall out of the tournament circuit and have also heard a lot of negative feedback about tournament fishing. Some owners and crews feel they can’t compete with the speed, distance and advanced technology. Being “outgunned” makes it feel that much more risky for them to drop 20, 30 or 50 grand in the Calcutta. These crews feel they are starting the tournament at a disadvantage – and they’re probably right.
While some have withdrawn, I have also seen more new boats with the right tools getting into the tournament circuit. So, the boats that have quit tournament fishing hasn’t hurt the overall tournament participation – just changed the names on the transoms.
What does it all boil down to? If you can’t fish with the big boys, stay at the dock!
That’s my two minute warning. Fraz