Capt. Bill Buckland, Fisherman’s Center
Supplies Needed: L-Bar, 250 lb mono, 11/0 circle hooks, three-way swivel, deep drop gang rig and sash weight.
Supplies Needed: L-Bar, 250 lb mono, 11/0 circle hooks, three-way swivel, deep drop gang rig and sash weight.
by Charlie Levine
Captain Ricky Wheeler rose up through the ranks in New Jersey learning how to catch everything from fluke to bigeye tuna to blue marlin. Wheeler credits fishing out of this part of the world with shaping the captain he is today. It was that well-rounded fishing education that helped him become a successful captain and launch his own tackle company.
Wheeler, who just turned 34, grew up in Delaware but spent his summers in Wildwood, New Jersey. When he scored a job at South Jersey Marina, home to the MidAtlantic 500, the door to the offshore fishing world opened. “I grew up fishing for striped bass and bluefish in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays,” he says. “My dad and granddad had boats and back then the fishing for weakfish was really good, but we didn’t do much offshore fishing. We didn’t have the means. When I started working at the marina, I met the right people and got invited offshore. I learned a lot really fast.”
He spent a summer working as a mate on the Super Crew, a 54 Monterey, and caught his first white marlin. “That kind of catapulted my love for offshore fishing,” he says. His next big break occurred while fishing the MidAtlantic tournament with Frank Pettisani who had a 45 Hatteras. “We caught fish, but didn’t win,” Wheeler says. “Frank offered me a job on the way home and had me running that boat right away. I got my captain’s license that winter.”
Wheeler fished with Pettisani for five years, till the end of 2010. “For me, it was great because Frank demands a lot, but I don’t think realizes it. He wants perfection every day. He pushes me to go beyond good and get better,” Wheeler says. “He understands the fishing part of it.”
Wheeler fished nine months out of the year in New Jersey, fishing for whatever was biting, then spent the winter months with customization projects on the boat. “It went well, and I learned a lot,” he says. “We totally customized that boat and fished a lot.”
Pettisani took the boat from Cape May to Venezuela in 2010 and also fished in Aruba. Those were tough times to fish in Venezuela, with issues sourcing fuel for US boats. It was just dangerous to be there. “It’s a shame,” Wheeler says. “It’s a beautiful country and really good fishing.”
After Venezuela, Wheeler headed back to New Jersey and started freelancing. He fished with IGFA world-record holder Maureen Klause. The pair set nine records together. He also ran larger boats for various clients over the summer. In 2011, he spent his winter in the southern Bahamas, fishing with Capt. Joe Trainor on the Over/Under. He also began fishing in Trinidad and Grenada with Pettisani who had moved the boat there. “It was a busy, year-round schedule for four or five years,” Wheeler says. But the entire time, Wheeler was learning more about fishing in various areas and taking what he learned in New Jersey and applying it to new waters.
“In New Jersey, we have long runs and you learn how to read sea-surface temperature and chlorophyll charts, how water moves and how to adapt every day,” he says. “I use what I learned up there and take it everywhere. Fish do the same basic thing anywhere. It may change a bit depending on what they’re eating, but we’ll still target current edges and look for color breaks.”
From Trainor, Wheeler also learned how to keep a boat running in remote settings. There simply aren’t many facilities in the southern Bahamas. If something breaks, you better be able to fix it, and you better have spare parts. “There was no body coming to help us,” Wheeler says. “You’ve got to learn to fix things. I don’t love turning wrenches, I actually dislike it, but I love that I know how to do it. Anything that is broken can be fixed.”
Wheeler started spending time in Grenada in the winter of 2013 with Pettisani and fished the spring months with Joe Trainor in the Bahamas. A self-described computer geek, Wheeler also uses his electronics to the full extent possible. He says that freelancing on different boats really helped him master marine electronics. “Every boat I fished on had different electronics, from the newest to the oldest, so I had to learn all that. It was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. The same could be said for engines and gensets, they were all different. When you only work on one boat you only learn one system.”
After fishing Grenada for a few seasons, Pettisani decided to go all in. He didn’t want anyone but Wheeler to run the operation. Pettisani stationed the 45 Hatteras on the Spice Island and brought over the Exile (formerly Phat Mann and Soul Candy), a 65 Paul Mann that’s going to fish year-round in Grenada. The operation, Exile Charters (www.exilecharters.com), is ready to make the most of a bite that Wheeler says is quietly home to one of the best fisheries in the Caribbean.
“Nobody there really understands how good the fishing is,” Wheeler says. “It’s just far enough that most American boats don’t go, but you can get direct flights from New York and Miami. Our clientele can be there in a few hours.” According to Wheeler, prime time in Grenada runs from December through April with February standing out as the peak of the action. “We’ll see sails balling bait and you can get 25-plus shots a day. The first three days of February we fished five-hour days and had 15 shots with blues in the mix.” The yellowfin bite is also strong, offering some variety and the action is just five miles offshore.
When fishing remote locations, you sometimes need to get a little creative with the spread. Wheeler had been using what he calls a Party Hat, which added some flash to an O-ring circle hook ballyhoo rig. “I wanted to be able to add some color to the ballyhoo, especially for tuna,” he says. His Party Hat accomplished that goal and didn’t impede the circle hook hookup ratio on the drop back.
He met his future business partner on a liveaboard charter and they started Fish Downsea (www.fishdownsea.com), offering a line of Party Hats, Dredge Shads, Mojo rigs and more. “I would make my own tackle as a hobby,” Wheeler says. “We kept expanding on it and we’re about to start a line of trolling lures. This season I’m going to try a good array of shapes I like. We made some molds, and we’re going to try them. If I’m going to pull something, why not make it mine? If I can pull it, I can promote it.”
Charlie Levine is the publisher of FishTrack.com and the author of the fishing book, “Sucked Dry: The Struggle is Reel,” available on Amazon.
by Charlie Levine
Raised in Pensacola, Florida, Chris Mowad, only ever wanted one job. “I was always an avid angler growing up, and the dad of one of my best friends was a private boat captain,” he says. “I thought that was the dream job.”
Chris started working on boats at 14 years old and just 13 years later, he’s running the Whoo Dat – a 58-foot Jarrett Bay owned by Keith Richardson. This is one operation that does not like to sit idly by. Mowad and company left the Gulf of Mexico in January and have been fishing in the Dominican Republic and St. Thomas ever since.
Mowad took the time for a phone call in St. Thomas just after the September moon and the bite’s been on. “We caught 23 in the last seven days,” he says of fishing on the North Drop. “We recently hired a new mate who fished the entire Gulf season and caught 11 fish. We doubled his whole season in a week. You can build a resume pretty quick spending time in hot spots, and the experience you gain is priceless.”
Mowad’s quick ascent to the captain’s chair began as a freelance captain and mate on a handful of boats. He also worked at Outcast Bait and Tackle, in Pensacola, from the ages of 17 to 21. It being a smaller shop, he had to know how to do a little bit of everything. Spool reels, rig lures, you name it. At 18, he got his six-pack license and started running more boats. “I met a lot of local guys who had private boats, and I worked as a captain-for-hire,” Mowad says. “That’s how I got a lot of experience. You learn a lot when you’re managing a different crew every weekend.”
While running the boat and finding fish is the more glamorous part of the job, Mowad is not afraid to get his hands dirty and do whatever it takes to make sure the boat is running properly. “I was always impressed by captains who maintained the boat themselves and if anything broke, they knew how to fix each system,” he says.
Capt. Myles Colley was one such captain that Chris Mowad looked up to. Colley, captain of the Born2Run, is from the same area as Mowad and also started running boats at a young age. “I wanted to kind of follow in his footsteps,” Mowad says. “The part I enjoy most now is that he’s gone from being a mentor to us being in competition, but we still have a good friendship.”
The Whoo Dat is the perfect platform for the kind of marlin fishing that keeps Mowad’s boss fired up. The 58-footer was built by Jarrett Bay in 2007 and when Richardson bought it in 2011, he installed a tuna tower, a second generator, new electronics and a fresh coat of paint. The 1,350-hp MTU 12V 2000s just rolled over 10,000 hours and keep the team on the bite. While the engines keep the team mobile, it’s really the owner of the boat, Keith Richardson, who keeps everyone on board fired up. “He keeps us all going,” Mowad says. “He wants to put up big numbers and is not afraid to fish extra hours. He’s really the hardest working guy I’ve ever worked for and a key part of our program. He’s willing to fish on a different schedule and follow the bite.”
Having the flexibility to move throughout the Caribbean, whether it’s fishing FADs in Casa de Campo, or pulling lures on the North Drop, gives Whoo Dat the ability to stay right on the marlin’s tail. Fishing out of St. Thomas this summer, Mowad and his crew were seeing 10 to 12 blue marlin a day during the peak moon phases in June, July, August and September. It’s been some of the best fishing there in a long time. Fishing alongside his mate of four years, Kevin Alexander, he says they’ve got a solid group of guys on the boat and camaraderie is high.
While they’ve been successful, Mowad is never afraid to ask for help from some of the more experienced skippers. “If you quit asking questions, you quit getting better,” he says. “There’s a group of guys here that have been really helpful.”
Mowad’s plan moving forward is to get boat work finished in October and November then head to Casa de Campo in December and fish there through next April. From the DR, the team is heading back to St. Thomas for the summer. The days can run together, but he’s certainly not complaining. “It wouldn’t be fair to say we work 24-hour days, but there are times it seems like it,” he says. “Keith doesn’t have a problem going for a 15-day stretch and the seas are rough the majority of the time. But you get to learn how maneuver the boat in rough water. If you can catch them when it’s rough, you’ll catch them when it’s calm.”
Charlie Levine is the publisher of FishTrack.com and the author of the book, “Sucked Dry: The Struggle is Reel,” available on Amazon.
by Dave Ferrell
Capt. Peter B. Wright, a guy that’s caught quite a lot of giant marlin, often says that the best fishing teams aren’t determined by how big a fish they catch…It’s how many they catch that matters. Wright’s logic says that you can’t determine the exact size of the fish that takes your bait, but you can control how many bites you get, and how many fish you successfully capture out of those bites.
Therefore, it is the team that can get a bite, catch a fish and then redeploy the baits quickly to get yet another bite that usually comes out on top in a numbers-based release event. It is for this reason that any team that places in the top five of an east Florida sailfish tournament can probably be plopped down in any of the world’s billfish hot spots and be kicking butt in no time at all. Fishing for sails in Florida is a numbers game. Those who play it seem to be getting faster and more efficient with every passing season.
Change is Good
While it might not seem like it to those close to the sport, a lot of things have changed over the years for those targeting sails. Not too long ago, it was wire leaders and split-tailed mullet that caught all the sails from West Palm to Key West. These days its dredge fishing, circle hooks, 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders and live-bait kite fishing that dominates the scene. When the bite gets hot, usually during the winter months, double digit days become commonplace and good crews can really rack up the numbers. Catching double digit Florida sails is not as easy as many people think…Atlantic sails can be finicky on the bite and only a tight-lipped white marlin is harder to hook than a petite Palm Beach sail.
Two changes are perhaps the most profound. For one thing, we don’t keep them anymore. That leaves a lot more of them available for you to catch. “The first Miami Billfish Tournament was a one-point-per-pound event. The second year it was a hybrid with points for release and killed fish,” says Capt. Ray Rosher, owner the Miss Britt out of Miami, Florida. “Later on, we all complained bitterly when we were forced to use circle hooks in the tournaments. Now we would pay double to get to use them…sometimes, change is good.” Those two changes alone, the advent of the release ethic and the use of circle hooks, probably contribute as much, or more, to today’s double-digit numbers than any learned technique. Besides knowing how to kite fish, of course.
The practice of fishing live baits on circle hooks, dangling the baits just at, or below the water’s surface, is probably the most effective way to catch good numbers of sailfish, especially if they are concentrated in a certain area or depth. Capt. Bouncer Smith, who charter fishes his Bouncer’s Dusky, out of Miami, is an expert kite fisherman and has seen quite a few innovations in the game. “I had a customer one time that was watching me struggle with some helium balloons on a calm day. He decided he was going to help me out and invent a kite-shaped helium balloon,” said Bouncer. “He tinkered with the idea for a couple of years and tried to come up with a helium-filled kite that measured 36 x 36 x 4 inches. It had a lot of potential, but it never came to fruition.”
“Probably the two most notable things I’ve seen recently are the use of Mylar dredges in the kite spread and the use of underwater lights during the daytime,” says Bouncer. “They will take a dredge teaser, fill it with Mylar strips with ballyhoo or some other baitfish imprinted on them, and then hang it under a bullet float in between two kites.” Wave and wind action bobs the loaded dredge up and down and brings fish into sight range of the kite baits. “Guys are also strobing their underwater lights during the day to get fish’s attention as well,” says Bouncer.
“I usually use a sea anchor most of the time so that requires power fishing. This winter I plan on hanging one of those mylar dredges right underneath the center console. I think it will do well underneath the boat,” he says.
Not one to stay comfortable in the way he does things, Bouncer is willing to give anything a go if he thinks it might bring more action. “At one time, we put some underwater speakers out to see if they would attract sails and get them to come to the boat. We played the same noise that scientists use to call sharks [low frequency, pulsed, white noise], but it didn’t seem to work for us,” said Bouncer.
“I’m waiting for the day when a guy pulls his kites in and starts flying his lines out on a pair of drones! Can you imagine that? Not having to worry about the wind? Just two drones sitting out there at the perfect height…not even having to watch them? That would be the cat’s meow,” says Bouncer.
Good numbers only breed more innovation, as crews try to catch just one more fish than the guys in the next slip. Few work harder at trying to catch more fish, quickly and efficiently than Rosher. On top of his charter boat operations, Rosher also owns R&R Tackle – a company that manufactures all manner of innovative tackle and accessories. Most of the products he sells came about by trying to fulfill a need that he encountered on his daily outings.
Even so, he doesn’t make or sell either of his first two picks for recent great sailfish innovations. “One of the big changes,” says Rosher, “is the use of super-fast electric kite reels to retrieve the kites. Consequently, these reels have taught the guys the benefits of speed. We all have a basic understanding of how to take care of our baits, make the proper rigs, set up for a drift correctly etc. Now, it’s become a lot like NASCAR, where the quickest pit crews get the cars around faster. In fishing, the crew that gets the bites, and then redeploys quickly, catches more double and triples…and wins more tournaments,” says Rosher.
Rosher uses Hooker kite reels for several reasons. “I believe they are the fastest kite reels out there,” he says. “I don’t have experience with a lot of the other brands, but these are pretty fast reels. Guys used to be happy just having ANY electric reel, now we have these ultra-fast ones that can clear big marks. This allows you to put four clips on a kite line instead of three, which allows you to fish four lines on each side. And all four clips can fit on one kite reel.”
Even something so seemingly insignificant as a kite clip can become an item of intense scrutiny in Rosher’s quest for increased speed and efficiency. Rosher’s newly designed M2 clips are a fraction of the weight of traditional clips and excel on day’s with very light winds. “They work in all winds actually, but they really help on calm days. Even if you are using helium assist, kite lines will sag on calm days, and any added weight makes them sag even more. If your kite line is sagging and you get bit, a fish can burn through your other baits in an instant. Elevation is your friend in kite fishing. If your kite isn’t sagging you can lift the other baits out of the water and then get another bite. These clips allow you to fish more clips on very calm days.”
The additional clip also gives you the option of putting more baits out when one gets bit. “If the long gets bit, you can advance the other two baits and add another short. This puts a new bait right back into the spot where you got the first bite and results in a large number of doubles and triples,” says Rosher. “During a recent event we had some pretty tough fishing, but we got a bite on our right long – our shallowest bait. We backed up on it and caught it. I decided to put all of our stuff out a little shallower. By the time we had caught that one fish, all of our baits were up in our little tubes and I was moving an 1/8th of a mile back up in front of the pack. We ended up catching seven of them and doubled the next boat. I’m not trying to be some kind of braggart either, I’m just saying that good team work – speed and efficiency – wins tournaments.”
Advancements in kite design also allow you to spend more days on the water. “Kites have improved significantly,” says Rosher. “With both Lewis and SFE putting a lot of emphasis on light and heavy wind models. The ultralights really help if they can keep me from having to blow up a balloon with helium.”
As always, picking the right reel for the job is critical, especially when dealing with the long distances and light tackle commonly used when targeting sails with kites. “All of my reels are designed specifically for live bait sail fishing. Which means they have to have a high speed retrieve and very consistent drags. The reel I use is the Penn Fathom 40 NLDHS (Narrow Lever Drag High Speed). It retails for $249 and that’s very reasonable…I’m currently on my third season with the reels on my boat. There are others that do the same thing, but these are the ones I can talk about because I use them every day.”
Details Make a Difference
Nowhere was it more evident on how far Rosher will go to improve efficiency than when he talked about the design on his new rigging needles for live baits. “We like to bridle our live baits when kite fishing and we use a needle that we made to use with our specific bands,” he says. “Instead of a hole, it has a restrictor that lets you snap a band in place quickly and easily. It’s a synthetic needle [not metal] with soft edges so you can’t snag or damage a band. I tried to make them of metal, but I couldn’t make them as soft as I needed them to be. These are plenty strong enough to do the job, plus I can round the edges and flatten the sides to keep them from rolling around on a flat surface.”
“Our rigging bands come in two sizes, ½-inch and 1 3/8-inch, in either black or clear. They are made to our exact specifications because it’s really hard to get that sweet spot of being strong but not too strong. They need to hold the bait, but then let it go away on the hookup. You don’t want them to stay too well attached. I saw in Australia how those big baits tied on with 130-pound Dacron wouldn’t come off and the fish would come up shaking its head, throwing the whole thing away.”
It’s no secret that boats frequently placing near the top of most sailfish tournaments in south Florida use pen-raised live baits. Rosher, who does quite well in tournaments, is known as a master at raising and keeping live baits. “I put all of our focus on products that I needed…things I couldn’t find out in the marketplace. Our bait pens come with a food tray in them, and we even sell food…wet or dry. Our double fine mesh bait nets allow you to transfer large amounts of live baits very quickly, without damaging the slime layer. They even have a clear plastic bottom that holds water to keep them lubricated, but also fools the baits into swimming straight into the net instead of trying to avoid it.” Rosher even makes small bait tubes for pilchards and goggle eyes that feature adjustable, individual flow controls and that allow you to store bridled baits ready for deployment as soon as the boat stops.
Old School Too
Kite fishing might have inched ahead with more recent sail fishing innovations, and that’s just fine for traditional troll fisherman like Tony Huerta, owner of the Lo Que Sea. Huerta and crew are regular top five finishers in many of the most prestigious marlin and sailfish tournaments in south Florida and the Bahamas. Huerta chuckled when I asked him what, if anything, he’s been doing differently over the last few years that he thought might have improved his odds.
“We are doing the exact same things. We might pull a bigger dredge on tournament days – triples or even quads, but nothing much is different. We’ve got a blue and white dredge on one side, and a blue and black on the other. We still pull green squids and a blue and white express with a mackerel in it. We prospect one side, all day long, even in sunny conditions. A lot of boats use high speed reels, but we still use TLD 20 two speeds. I think a lot of anglers pull the baits away from the fish with the high speeds. There’s really not much to it…run them over and hang on to the ones you see,” he says.
Oh, if it were just that easy.
by Alexandra Stark
One of the many charms of the sportfishing lifestyle is the travel to exotic places. By the very nature of the activity, just about every place from which you can catch a marlin or sailfish has a beach. Most also have marinas and a place to grab a bite to eat. For a captain’s wife, the chance to spend a vacation in a place where the boat is fishing can be a wonderful perk.
If you were setting up a travel plan, how could you select a location that combines great fishing with everything necessary for a special trip for your special lady? Get this wrong at your own peril – Ascension Island has world class blue marlin fishing, but how would she feel about “feeding bread to half-wild donkeys” as the headliner of her land-based itinerary? There are also many places with great night life and amenities that don’t hold up the fishing side of the equation.
There are places, however, that play host to great fishing and the types of amenities and activities that make them ideal for captains and their wives. We’ve selected the following locations by asking professional captains and their wives for their recommendations. The following is a profile of a few of the best, with an interview from a professional who describes the ins and outs of each location.
Los Suenos Resort and Marina, Costa Rica
By now everyone in the world has heard of the great billfishing opportunities out of Los Suenos. The world class fishing is matched by a resort that overlooks no detail in providing an incredible atmosphere. It truly boasts of a whole gamut of activity – one that any captain’s wife would certainly enjoy.
Ashley Bretecher, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications has been with Los Sueños for 16 years. When she started it was to help during the high season only. Ashley left for a year to go to school and decided to come back to stay. Los Suenos is now home to Ashley and her daughter. Here is Ashley’s perspective:
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cabo San Lucas is a place full of adventure and wonder. Its desert climate mean lots of sunshine and little rain. The waters surrounding it host a world class striped marlin fishery, with big blues and blacks mixed in. Aside from the fishing, Cabo offers an unmatched quality and diversity of accommodation and activity (dune buggy riding, parasailing, desert camel riding, spa days, drinking margaritas on the beach…you can even take pictures with baby lions!)
Darren “Diz” Carey is the General Manager of IGY’s Marina Cabo San Lucas, the 375-slip marina that plays host to sportfishers and megayachts – up to 380’ – from far and wide. A British ex-pat, Diz offers some wise perspective on what a companion/fishing vacation to Cabo might look like. His perspective is delivered charmingly with an understatement, thoughtfulness and wit.
shopping from designer brands to the best fakes – you can buy a $10 Rolex or walk down a little ways and pay $25k for the real thing. There are health spas with a large spectrum of services and pricing, 19 luxurious golf courses, restaurants spanning from taco bars to Michelin star chefs,” Carey says. Carey recommends the organic farm to table restaurant “Flora Farms” for a great meal and a good time. Whale watching and turtle hatchling release are must sees if you are there in the right season. There are also secluded beaches with wild horses are in Cabo, yes, this actually exists and it’s free! Carey reports that there are three stores in the marina that cater to women, even selling the latest in fishing gear.
The Abaco Islands, Bahamas
There is just so much to do in the Abacos, so many places to go – rent your own boat or grab a ferry and you can do most anything. Everything is right next to each other and you can do something new every day. The main hub is Marsh Harbour, but don’t miss Manowar Cay or Treasure Cay. The most popular spot is Guana where you can join the sportfishing crowd every Sunday at Nipper’s and Grabbers. Visit Pete’s Pub by boat while you’re at it. You can swim with the pigs on Pig Beach in No Name Cay. The blue marlin fishing in the spring time is the high liner. The Abacos feature lots of canyons and bottom topography with plenty of coverage for tournament fleets.
Kevie Thomas, Rooms Division Director, Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina Marsh Harbour, Abaco, The Bahamas.
Kevie is a local and oh so proud of her Bahamian culture. She provides an insider’s perspective on what a trip to the Abacos, a group is islands and barrier cays in the northern Bahamas, might look like. “I was born and raised here, but I would not want to live anywhere else. Abaco is one big family, everyone knows everyone. It’s just a relaxing great place to live.”
Key West, Florida
Want an island experience without the need for a passport? Key West provides an excellent fishery for everything from sailfish and wahoo to all manner of snapper and grouper exploits. It is also home to a vibrant hospitality scene, complete with a laid-back atmosphere, plenty of options for having a good time and eating something tasty.
Brianna Birtles is the marketing director at Oceans Edge Marina in Key West. “I have been in Key West for six years now, having moved from New York. I was sick of my NY commute and in need of a change. I visited Key West prior to and decided to (do as David Sloane’s book suggests) ‘Quit my job and moved to Key West.’ I had previously worked in both advertising and travel but looked to completely restart and build a career in hotels.” Just 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is the most Southern City in the United States.
by Capt. Jen Copeland
In many ways social media is defining the world around us. While skillfully maneuvering the Instagrams and Facebooks of the world can raise the professional profile of your career, posting things inappropriately can ruin your reputation, change the way people look at you, and even get you fired. Captain Jen Copeland provides a thoughtful, insightful breakdown of how sportfishing mates should approach the use of social media. It’s a good read for anyone, if you plan to make your career in sportfishing it is a must read. – ITB
Social media provides a unique look inside the world of sportfishing and the many interesting men and women who make up the sportfishing industry. Social media post
s show us what is biting where and allow us to preview new products. Social media—and the information it provides—has dramatically shortened the time necessary to make decisions.
Many participants in the sportfishing industry – top teams, small lure makers, tournaments, and brokerages – capitalize on the “perceived free advertising” Instagram and Facebook provide. Top teams use it for a real-time fishing reports and to track the success of their competitors. What once took captains hours, or even days to hear via the coconut telegraph, now takes only minutes. Most everyone is connected by social media one way or another and it has proven to be a real asset.
“Staying in touch with family and friends while you’re travelling enables more people to be involved in the sport, and everyone gets excited to see fish being caught,” says Captain Jimmy Werling of the Plane Simple. Werling, whose team is a regular on tournament leaderboards, keeps a watchful eye on his competition through social media. “Although I may not be competing with so-and-so this week, I may be the next week. I’m able to track the teams I need to watch out for.”
Of all the professionals surveyed about the subject, not one of them said social media was “bad” for the fishing business itself. In fact, they all agreed it provides a wealth of knowledge and information that is both informative and instantly accessible. But, there must be a down side, right?
While there is no doubt the sportfishing industry has become “instafamous” in the past few years, let’s not forget the possible repercussions from your “professional” posts. What you post can impact your immediate situation and even follow you into the future. Just as social media had made information available at the touch of app, it can also wreak havoc on your career should it not be used responsibly.
Kona Captain Bryan Toney of Marlin Magic says he has only used social media on a professional level for the last year. “I don’t post anything personal, I’ve strayed from that,” Toney says. “It (SM) is a great way to get yourself out there. But if you’re looking to further your career, my advice is to keep it completely professional.” Solid advice from a man who says, “I learned it the hard way.”
Anytime you post, comment or like something, it is a direct reflection on you and your character. Though you may not realize it, this can affect the way people think about you. Six degrees of separation? Possibly. According to Captain Doug Covin of Hatteras team Copper Leader, “I have used several different mates over the last few years, so I’ve used social media many times to do a ’background check’ to see what type of fishing a mate is doing or to see who his friends are.” Covin continues by saying “if a mate posts a lot of pictures of himself at the sandbar, or drinking with his buddies, then that’s very telling.” Very telling, but not in a good, professional way.
“It’s your resume you’re putting out there,” another captain points out. “Everyday out on the dock is a real-time interview to see how you carry yourself, how your boat looks. With social media, you don’t know who is watching you. It could be your captain, your owner, a future employer – one screw up could ruin your job, or your future – and that’s worth remembering.”
Living in the moment is one thing that makes the charm of sportfishing so alluring. If sportfishing is your chosen career, however, it’s wise to think of your future. In ten years, how do you want to be seen? Impressions do matter and no one is irreplaceable. As Captain Bryan Toney says, “Good mates don’t stay mates, they turn into responsible, respectable captains. And well, good mates with bad habits stay mates – if he’s lucky.”
The Bottom Line: “Could a mate’s indiscretions in social media content affect his career?”
Both Covin and Toney think it could, at least in the short term. Captain Jimmy Werling answered with a definitive, “100% yes.” He explains, “Once it’s out there, it’s always out there. To me, this means when you go to apply for another job, inappropriate posts will come back to haunt you,” he goes on to say. “If your social media profile makes you look like an idiot, then you are an idiot. It can define you, so be aware of what you put out there – it’s there to stay and for all to see.” Werling went on to tell me that his boss’ company has a very strict social media policy for the boat. If he goes to hire a new mate, the company will search the new hire’s social media profile(s) to help determine what type of person they are.
According to another top, competitive tournament captain (who prefers to remain anonymous), “Any future employer has the right to judge you on your social media habits. Most have been usually right when it comes to determining a personality based on your posts. It’s just another network. You must use common sense, and in this business, if you don’t have that, find another career.”
This estimation may sound harsh, but it is a harsh reality. The fact that others may make judgments on your skills or character by what you post on social media should not be a surprise. When it comes to your social media accounts, you put it there, so it’s an open invitation for anyone to “check you out” – private or public.
To Post or Not to Post?
What is inappropriate? That is a personal decision and one a responsible, mature mate should be able to easily make. Off the high of a stellar fishing day, you may be tempted to post the highlights ASAP. But there are a few factors you may want to consider prior to clicking the share button:
The bottom line is this, and top captains agree: thinking twice always makes you see things differently the second time. If you are committed to this fishing career of yours, regardless whether or not you are part of a private or charter program, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. The days of using social media to make yourself known and speak your mind are over. This “thing” has morphed into a permanent, real life window to your world, so be sure you are ready to have your current, or future employer peering into it.
Setting Up and Using Game Chairs: An InTheBite Archive –
by Captain Geoff Lamond, New Zealand Gamefishing
Any time I have a new angler or guest on board I always have them measured up and made familiar with correct chair fishing techniques. Setting up and using game or fighting chairs correctly can make a huge difference to the angler’s comfort, efficiency and overall enjoyment when tackling larger gamefish.
I find many anglers seem to become a little intimidated by game chairs, especially when the heavier 130-pound tackle is introduced for the more serious New Zealand gamefish such as swordfish and the west coast bluefin. In my view, a game chair is an essential tool if you’re serious about catching these bigger fish. Sure, stand-up fishing has its place amongst good anglers and it can also be a lot of fun, but if you’re serious about taking on these bigger fish, a decent game chair is a must – especially at night or in rough sea conditions.
I’ve seen a few chairs around the New Zealand game fishing scene that certainly don’t look to functional and I can only begin to imagine what an uncomfortable and unenjoyable experience it would be for any angler fighting a decent fish. A game chair’s positioning, variation in settings and overall strength will obviously have a major influence on fish fighting effectiveness. Faults in the game chair setup can cause anything from prolonged fighting times, unnecessarily wearing out anglers or worse still losing a fish of a lifetime.
The major advantage of well setup game chairs over standup techniques is that it allows better use of all major muscle groups in fishing a fish, especially the strongest muscle group – the leg muscles. Also, with a well-balanced technique and good bucket harness, there will be less fatigue on the angler during prolonged fights. It is important, however, to understand that your chair needs to be set up and used correctly from the start.
Positioning and Mounting the Chair
Firstly, all game chairs need to be situated in the center of the cockpit. Some game chairs around the New Zealand game fishing scene are situated off center, situated to one side of the cockpit. This is basically some bright spark’s idea to get the game chair and angler closer to the covering board or cockpit corner on more “beamier” boats. This all sounds great in theory until a fish needs to be fought in the opposite corner or “run down” on the side where the chair is furthest from.
From a driving perspective, you can usually get away with this on striped marlin or medium to small fish. But with the larger game fish such blue or black marlin, bluefin tuna and swordfish, who can all have deep fighting characteristics, your chair needs to be situated in the center of the cockpit to enable the rod tip and line to clear all corners, covering boards and rigger halyards at any time during the fight.
On more “beamier” boats, where it can be difficult for the line to clear the cockpit corners and covering boards during deep fights, an apparatus known as “goose-neck” or offset stanchion can be utilized rather than the conventional straight stanchion. This “goose-neck” allows the chair to be swiveled closer to the side or corner where the fish is situated and keep the line clear at all times during the fight.
In 2005 a mechanical stanchion was devised and approved by the IGFA that also allowed the chair to be maneuvered or swiveled to the corners. This is a pretty expensive option that may not be practical for too many New Zealanders, but it’s just another example of ensuring the line is clear of the corners at all times.
Having the rod tip and the line clear of the corners at all times can certainly make driving on fish substantially easier and reduce fishing times by up to 25% on deep fighting fish. Not only that but it can also substantially reduce the likelihood of breaking off a fish of a lifetime in the side of the boat…enough said.
A game chair’s strength is something that needs to be attended to or considered especially when heavier 130-pound tackle is used. We’ve all heard, and some unlucky ones have experienced, hard luck stories involving chairs that haven’t stood up to the rigors of a prolonged fight. In some cases these little episodes have caused anything form an inconvenience to disqualification of tournament or record fish through to worst case scenario…losing the fish altogether.
The ideal situation and strongest link is to have the chairs stanchion go right through the deck, connected to the vessel’s hull rather than just through-bolted onto the cockpit’s deck. Sound excessive? Well, it’s certainly a must if your using heavy tackle consistently and it’s one of the first things professional captains look at (in the cockpit) in heavy tackle fisheries overseas.
There’s a huge amount of weight and leverage applied from big chair rods. If the chair’s foundation isn’t secure, wear and tear will certainly occur over time. Breakages usually occur when you need the chair the most. This may not be practical for some New Zealand vessels, especially trailer boats. But having a strong base for our chair’s stanchion is something that needs special attention if you’re serious about taking on big fish on heavy tackle.
Other pressure points on the chair include the top of the stanchion and base of the chair, the footrest and the gimbal. Without getting into too much detail, it’s just important to ensure that all the pins, welds, nuts and bolts and base plates are more than adequate for the job intended – preferably before you hook that fish of a lifetime! Any weak points on your chair system will certainly show themselves over time.
Adjusting the Chair to the Angler
Having the ability to alter the gimbal height and the footrest height and length is vitally important to the overall effectiveness of your chair. Anglers have different proportions, rods have differing butt lengths and of course settings will alter depending on the size of the tackle you prefer. It’s important to be able to alter the settings to suit tackle ranging 50- to 130-pound and to suit anglers from a child through to a front row forward (offensive tackle). If your chair is set up correctly, all anglers should feel balanced and comfortable with any sized tackle they choose.
In my opinion many of the New Zealand-constructed chairs don’t have enough variance in the height of the footrest. The footrest is the most important part of the whole chair system, as this is where anglers gain their strength. The height or angle of the footrest will depend on size of the tackle used, angling technique preferred and the overall fitness of the angler.
I generally like to teach people to ‘stand up’ with straight legs in the chair while fishing fish. It’s important to be able drop the footrest right down, making it easier for the angler to stand-up. Obviously this may alter with the heavier tackle you use, as there’s more leverage from 130-pound tackle than 50-pound. It’s important to find a height where the angler feels most comfortable and balanced— and no this doesn’t mean sitting flat on their backside.
If the footrest height is too high the angler will never ‘stand up’ in the chair in a hundred years: basically wearing themselves out twice as quickly. If it’s too low the angler may feel like they’re over balancing and getting pulled out of the boat. It’s important to find the happy medium.
Generally I like to keep the footrest as low as comfortably possible and have the anglers ‘stand up’ and remain balanced. This way they can use their body weight to exert ‘pull’ through the rod tip. This technique is much better than sitting on their backsides, pulling with their arms while wasting valuable energy.
As far as the footrest length is concerned, it’s pretty straightforward and the same rule is generally used for all anglers and all tackle sizes. Generally I like to have the top of the angler’s calf resting on the chairs leading edge. It doesn’t matter how big or small the angler is, this length generally provides a good pivoting length.
Some chairs seem to have sharp leading edges that can at times dig into the angler’s calf muscles, especially during prolonged fights. Ideally chairs with rounded edges are preferred for this reason. If discomfort occurs during a long fight, sometimes a towel or some sort of padding can help the situation, but generally the better chairs on the market will have their leading edges smoothed or rounded off.
As far as the gimbal height is concerned, this is basically dependent on size of tackle and length of the rod butt. Obviously, the reel and handle needs to clear the angler’s thighs, but not so high that is compromises any leverage and the ability for the angler to ‘stand up’ on the footrest.
When the angler is in the standing position and the reel handle is at the bottom of the urn, the angler should never feel like they are reaching or dipping every time they rotate the handle. Obviously this will once again waste precious energy during long fights. The correct gimbal height is where the angler can rotate the handle comfortable, without reaching or dipping while ‘standing up’ on the footrest.
There are plenty of differing harnesses around the New Zealand game fishing scene – some good and some not so good for chair fishing. Harnesses from the old classic over the shoulder trick through to kidney belts and even stand-up harnesses seem to get used on occasions. Generally none of these are that suitable for using a chair effectively, and anglers certainly struggle with standing up on the footrest.
The most suitable harness for chair fishing is the bucket harness. The bucket harness sits under the angler’s backside and gives them the opportunity to stand in the chair and use their own body weight and leg muscles to pull back on the rod tip. This is obviously more energy efficient rather than pulling on the rod and rest with your arms and upper body. Purchasing a decent bucket harness is maybe something fishermen should consider if they’re serious about fishing fish from a chair.
A big no-no many anglers seem to consistently do is have their left hand on the rod’s fore grip. Correct chair fishing technique is having your left hand resting on top of the reel. Having the angler rest their hand on top of the reel keeps their shoulders square and body weight more balanced rather than reaching too far forward, especially while in the ‘standing’ position. Placing your left hand on top of the reel also lets the angler guide the line back onto the reel and on the rare occasions when the main line breaks under stress, the reel won’t come back and hit the angler in the chest. This is especially important on heavy tackle such as 130-pound when drag settings are much higher.
Another chair fishing technique is the ‘sliding’ technique that differs slightly from the ‘standing’ technique. Basically, rather than standing and gathering line and using your body wait to pull back on the rod tip, the angler bends his knees and slides forward in the chair to gather line and then pushes back with their legs to pull back on the rod tip. Sometimes liquid soap can help the angler slide easier and make the whole process smoother.
As I’ve already mentioned, I generally prefer anglers to use the standing technique, but good anglers will integrate the two as both techniques have advantages at different stages of a long fight, i.e. gathering line quickly or putting plenty of weight over the rod tip. Whatever technique you prefer, it’s important to remain balanced, comfortable and use your legs rather than your upper body to fight the fish.
The positioning of the angler’s feet on the footrest is something that is very subtle but probably the most important aspect for increasing pull or weight through the rod tip. The angler should also have his feet spread on the footrest to provide a good base. If the angler can raise or lower his feet on the footrest it can make a huge difference in the amount of leverage through the rod tip. Subtle changes of a couple of inches can make all the differences at times. Good anglers will be constantly raising or lowering their feet positioning to compensate the angle of pull.
Basically, if the angler feels as if they’re over-balancing they should lift their feet up a touch and if they feel as if they can’t stand in the chair they should drop their feet positioning slightly. Remembering subtle movements are all that is required but the angler should always be trying to find the right pivot or balance point.
There are currently a wide variety of game chairs available on the market today. As with a lot of products you certainly get what you pay for. Some of the cheaper options available seem to become more of a hindrance rather than aide for catching bigger fish. More expensive overseas designed options such as Murray Brothers and Reelax chairs certainly spring to mind as popular options used in many of the world’s fishing hotspots.
As long as a good quality chair is set up correctly and good technique is used, your game chair can be become an essential, enjoyable and useful tool. This is especially true for the larger New Zealand species of blues, blacks, swordfish and the west coast bluefin tuna. Anyone and everyone should be able to fish 80 to 130 pound effectively from a chair if it’s set up right from the start.
Have you seen our latest DOCK TALK With Tom Ackle, President of BlueWater Chairs?
Hear the latest about what goes into making some of the finest fighting chairs, helm chairs, and rocket launchers on the market: