December 11 – December 14, 2019
First Place – Intents, Capt. Rhett Bailey with 5 releases
Second Place – JT, Capt. Mark Mcdevitt with 5 releases
Third Place – Catch, Capt. Stetson Turney with 4 releases
By Katie Coeckelenbergh
If it is your goal to fish and place consistently in any of the world’s best release tournaments, there is a certain set of practices that you’ll need to follow. Teams that place consistently do so not just with skill, but by adhering to a strenuous set of standards…one that doesn’t often include rod holders or cold beer during fishing hours. Here’s an insider’s look. (If you are a captain, this might be a good read for your tournament team as well). — ITB
When it’s a numbers game, it is no longer good enough to know how to hook a fish dead bait trolling on light tackle. When it’s a numbers game, you, as a team, have got to know how to hook more than one fish at a time. From an angler’s perspective, you have got to know how to move lines, where to place baits, and, most importantly, how to not get tangled with each other. In this situation, there’s nothing worse than losing your shot at a fish because you could not manage your line properly. Remember, every line and every bait has a story to tell when it comes back to the boat, and you don’t want your bait to tell the story of a San Cocho on a bite you didn’t know was happening.
To me, as an angler, there are five golden rules to follow when tournament fishing for numbers.
1. Don’t ever leave a rod unattended.
2. Move your lines properly without entanglement.
3. Always know where your bait is.
4. Keep your baits in blue water.
5. Think like a fish.
Rule One: The Importance of Attending the Rods
When you are fishing against some of the best captains and teams in the world, tournament fishing demands discipline and commitment. Some may think that fishing means putting baits in the water with a few teasers and cracking a beer on the air-conditioned mezzanine while watching the ballyhoo swim behind the boat – in the clip with the clickers on. Personally, with experience purely in Costa Rica and Baja, I hate clickers. Sailfish are some of the most finicky fish in the ocean; if a fish hits a bait and the clicker is on the reel there is resistance, however slight it may be.
There exists a chance of your fish feeling that resistance. With this risk, the probability of your fish consuming the bait, especially if it is not an aggressive bite, decreases dramatically. It is for this reason that rods need to be held at all times with the clickers off, so the angler can be ready for every single fish that comes into the spread. Otherwise – as the saying goes, you aren’t fishing, you are trolling. To fish competitively in a numbers tournament, an angler cannot afford to swing a hookup ration of below 80%. This is a lot to ask of an angler under any circumstance. To have a chance to make this happen rods must be held, clickers off. Some may even take this a step further, suggesting that the flatlines need to be fished out of the clips because the clips, like clickers, offer resistance.
Standing on rods all day, every day for multiple days of tournament fishing is physically and mentally demanding. There are several approaches that can be used to provide anglers with the breaks necessary to keep focused and fresh. One of these is perhaps the most straight forward: to rotate anglers from spot to spot, providing intermittent breaks by including more anglers than rods (five people fishing four positions, for instance).
Rule Two: Move Your Lines Properly
Without Entanglement Any good fisherman knows that fish like sailfish and white/striped marlin often travel and feed in schools. As a result, when one fish eats, chances are other fish may be eating/ready to eat as well. This is why captains turn on hooked fish, circling to try and get more bites before the release. As an angler, your job will be one of two things. If you are hooked up, keep your line tight and communicate with your captain. If not hooked up, you’ll need to move your bait to maximize chances of getting bit.
When catching a fish, it is important to keep your rod tip high and line tight in order to minimize belly in the line. Doing so will not only help you keep a good grasp on where your fish is, but it will help your captain and teammates identify the location of your fish. Knowing the location of the fish that is hooked is the first step in knowing where other baits need to be placed to maximize chances of getting bit.
The hooked fish will always make up the inside of the turn, the epicenter of the action. If fishing four lines with one angler hooked up, three baits are still fishing. Ideally if lines are moved properly, two baits are being fished in the outriggers as long lines and one as a flat/short line, prospecting the inside and working the remaining teasers.
If the inside long is the first bait bit, the outside long will be moved to the inside long position. The outside flat will be moved up to the outside long. Once the newly positioned outside long is run through the rigger clip and into position, it should be held steady and remain in its position. The angler in this position is the only one in the spread who is not prospecting. Why?
As the boat turns, the bait in this position will be moving faster than any of the other baits in the spread. Dropping the outside long back in a turn might cause it to interfere with the very important prospects of the inside long (the inside long is the bait closest to the action of the jumping fish and thus has a good shot at attracting the next bite). Think of it this way, while the inside long angler is dropping and reeling his/her bait, prospecting to simulate a stunned/injured fish, the outside long bait is swimming faster than any bait in the spread. This provides variability and, in my mind, increases the chances of exciting a fish and producing a bite.
The angler on the inside long is responsible for two things. First, getting his/her bait as close to the hooked fish as possible (without entanglement). Next on the agenda: prospecting, prospecting, prospecting. The flat line is responsible for fishing close: prospecting the remaining teasers, often both dredges and the outside chain. Where the outside long is the fastest moving bait in the spread, the inside long is the slowest. By getting your bait close to the hooked fish, dropping it for a prospect will simulate a dead/stunned/injured fish falling, and reeling will simulate a frantic fish escaping. This, if done correctly, will excite surrounding billfish and ideally result in a bite.
To me, the inside long bite is the most delicate, often wildly difficult to sense as a result of the lack of tension on the line. The inside long line in a turn is without a doubt the hardest to fish. As there is so little tension on the line, it can be hard to feel the bite – much less see the fish eat – seal the deal, and set the hook. That being said, if fished correctly it can be the most likely bite to receive in a turn.
If you are holding your rod in this position and feeling your line as you should be (Rule #1), and you think maybe you have gotten a bite, the trick is to not leave room for second guessing. If you think you’ve had a bite, come up with the drag and reel like crazy for an uncomfortably long time in order to set the hook into the fish’s mouth. It is better to be mistaken about a bite and to have not received one, than to be unsure, not react, and miss a fish. No one cares if you think you got a bite but did not. Everyone cares if it is the other way around.
Pro Tip: The outside long should not be fished too far out. In a tight turn, the bait will drift over toward the inside and it is important that it does not interfere with the inside long’s ability to prospect freely. Given this tendency – and the prospect of tangling – both long line handlers must know where their baits are at all times so as not to foul up the baits. If a flat line is the first to get hooked, and the captain begins the turn, the inside long line of the turn will end up under the hooked line nearly every time. As a result, it is crucial that when the turn begins, the inside long rigger is pulled down and moved under the hooked line to free it of tension. Once clear of the hooked line, it should then be re-installed in the outrigger to be fished correctly, prospecting in the turn.
Rule Three: Always Know Where Your Bait Is
Hooked fish can go crazy. Every scenario is different and often you cannot ascribe a formula to the action taking place in the spread – i.e. if a blue marlin bites the outside long, it will jump to the right. If you have any doubt at all on where your bait is and if you are clear of all other lines, reel up until you find your bait and can confirm its location and that it is free of entanglement.
If your inside long line is too close and can no longer prospect freely due to the location of the outside long, have the outside long move to the inside outrigger and move your long line now to the outside. Always be ready for a bite, as it is not uncommon for the outside long to get bit when it is popped out of the clip to move to the inside rigger.
Rule Four: Keep Your Baits in Blue Water
Billfish are visual hunters. There’s a reason why you search out clear, blue water to troll in – as opposed to the greenish, pea soup variety. Keeping your bait in blue water is another important aspect of thinking like a fish (see rule five). If you are fishing your bait in the wash, the sailfish/marlin isn’t going to see it. This can get tricky – especially when teaser fishing – but if the fish can’t see the bait, it can’t eat the bait. The more time you keep your bait out of the wash, the more likely you are to be successful.
Rule Five: Think Like a Fish
What is the fish seeing? What is it doing? What is it thinking? How is it acting? Is it hungry? Lazy? Uncertain? Sometimes fish come in hot, ready to eat with an aggressive bite. In this case, you just need to be ready to feed the fish. Sometimes, however, fish come in lazy. Sometimes they may just swipe at the bait, put the bait in its mouth, play with it before deciding whether or not to consume it. Every bite and every fish is different. Some of the best advice I ever received came from an old Costa Rican – a man that had grown up fishing for sailfish and had seen more than I could have imagined. As great advice often is, his was timely. It came in the beginning of my fishing learning curve, right when I was trying to learn the right technique; searching for the magic touch necessary to hook fish consistently.
To prove just how timely the advice was, as he spoke to me, I even had a fat blister on my thumb, taped up with electrical tape – the result of applying too much pressure to the reel while feeding a fish. I had just missed yet another bite. I turned to him in frustration, demanding answers to the mystery that caused my mess-ups.
In his purely Tico, Pura Vida way, he just smiled and told me, “You have to think like a fish.” To this day that advice rings true every time I’m watching the spread. What are the fish seeing? What do they hear? What are they thinking? Are they hungry? Lazy? Have they been attacking the teasers today? Hitting the longs? Are they fading? If someone misses a fish, are they eating again? These are all questions that I ask myself when fishing so that I may have the chance to foresee a bite before it happens, and frankly, often I do.
By taking in your observations as to how the fish are acting, you can sometimes predict what is to come. Knowing that fish have been lazy at the strike can help you feed them a bit longer or be that much more gentle in handling the line on the next bite. If they’re wide open and mashing everything in sight, you can just hang on and be that much more alert. Beyond the benefit to hooking fish, this can also be a confidence builder to yourself as an angler. During a highly stressful numbers competition, when every bite counts, keeping yourself and all of the anglers in a good frame of mind can make all the difference.
Prospecting and Situational Awareness in the Spread
Sailfish, like striped and white marlin, feed in groups. They surround schools of bait, herding them and taking turns picking off the stragglers. Often time they swipe with their bill to stun the bait – providing an easy feeding opportunity. It is for this reason that prospecting, the act of dropping back your bait and reeling it in, can be so effective. Any time fishing a straightaway, prospecting flat lines can increase your chances for a bite. When in a turn, either hooked up or not, the inside long can attract billfish by prospecting as well.
Let’s say a fish comes up on the right teaser, and the captain turns to keep the teaser and corresponding flat line in blue water. Instead of feeding or keeping on the teaser, however, the fish then fades. Which long line is most likely to be hit on the way out? The outside long, because when in the turn it will be nearly directly behind the inside flat. In this scenario, the fish came in on the teaser but then faded, indicating that it might be lazy when feeding. The outside long should be ready for the bite. If not received right away, the angler in this position should be ready with a deep prospect.
Captain Brad Philipps led angler John Cole to the rare grand slam on the fly. This included sailfish, blue marlin and striped marlin on fly tackle in the same day. Extremely rare, extremely difficult. What a feat by captain, crew and angler.
The weather didn’t allow for a lot of blue skies during the Carolina Billfish Classic this year, but the 60’ Spencer, Blue Sky added a second blue marlin and a third sailfish to take the tournament win! Blue Sky, owned by Greg Smith and captained by Jay Weaver ended this 3rd leg of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series with 1,800 points.
Jackpot, owned by Joe McKinney and captained by Sean Dooley, finished second with 1,600 points for releasing one blue marlin and five sailfish.
Third place went to Glazed, owned and captained by Miles Herring, with 1,400 points for releasing two blue marlin and one sailfish.
The tournament’s wahoo category went to Mister Pete, with a 38.7-pound catch. Full Pull won the dolphin category with a 44.0-pound catch and Hydrosphere won the tuna category with a 24.0-pound blackfin.
Hope Bentley, aboard Home Run, was the top female angler with two blue marlin releases. Holly McAlhany, aboard Syked Out, was second with two sailfish releases and Mackenzi Truluck, on Tina’s Trippin, was third with a sailfish release.
Will Gredick, Age 12, fishing aboard Man Cave, was the top youth angler with three sailfish releases. Julia Gressette, 9, also aboard Man Cave, was second with a sailfish release. Riley Overstreet, 13, aboard Tighten Up, was third with a 9.1-pound dolphin.
The weather was crazy but a lot of fun was had by all and another Carolina Billfish Classic is done.
Release Ruler introduces its Billfish line of weight estimating boat decals and demonstrates how to apply them. Could be a great tool for tournament season.
White’s Tackle is a full service tackle store located in Ft. Pierce and Stuart Florida. The staff are knowledgeable anglers who’ve fished the globe learning the secrets from the best captains and crews, and will be glad to pass them on to you. For over 90 years White’s Tackle has been outfitting inshore and offshore anglers from all over with the best tackle and service imaginable. If you have any questions feel free to call the Fort Pierce Store at 772-461-6909 or the Stuart Store 772-266-4010 or send an email to: email@example.com
Captain Jeff Donahue provides a thorough breakdown of the all new Hatteras GT59. Captain Jeff runs the Hatterascal, hull number one of the GT59 series, on it’s wide ranging tournament schedule. See how the boat is designed, performs and what all goes into making a Hatteras. You won’t want to miss it.
MAY 07, 2004
Fifteen years ago today, was the date that Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator was launched with 3 regions in the northern Gulf of Mexico which has now grown to 36 regions; Gulf of Mexico, East coast, West coast, Central America, South America, Caribbean, and more! What an incredible journey, meeting so many great people over the years doing what we all love – fishing!
The site has evolved tremendously over the years and is still evolving – we will be unveiling several new features next week at the Mobile Big Game Membership meeting as well as the Orange Beach Billfish Classic!
A couple of sneak previews; our new service called Hilton’s SAT2NAV system as well as our new “H.E.L.P.” program.
Stay tuned – more details to come!
Thank you very much to everyone who has supported our service over the years!
All the best,
By Capt. Jody Bright
March and April have long been hailed as “big fish months” in Kona, and indeed, there have been some very nice ones of late. We counted 31 blue marlin over 500 pounds in March and April. Here is the catch report from the Kona charter fleet – at least the ones we know of:
In the first week of March, Capt. B.T. of Melee Sport Fishing reports that a skiff released a marlin “about 800 pounds after it burned up their electric reel! 600 pounders were reported on Huntress and Jun Ken Po.
The largest blue marlin weighed in early March was a 713 pounder caught on Ihu Nui with Capt. McGrew Rice and the Clarence Clemons of the Cockpit, Carlton Arai.
On March 11, the High Noon caught a 670 pounder to back up a 642 they weighed in February. They are also reported to have broken off a fish that could have been 800 pounds.
Capt. Gene Vanderhoek went out holoholo on March 13 to train a new crew and ended up catching his old crew – 72 year old Skip Dasher – the largest fish of his angling career, a 708 pound blue. Dasher and company subdued their catch in a quick fifteen minutes.
Gene’s “crewman in training”, Brett Mowens, also caught a blue they tagged at 500+. They were back at the dock by 1:00 pm. Now that is a mighty fine busman’s holiday!
On March 14, Capt. Chad Contessa on a Bite Me boat weighed a 596 pound blue on Bite Me 1 after it arrived at the boat DOA.
Based on an informal phone survey, additional nice ones tagged recently include a 650+ released by Humdinger with Capt. Jeff Fay at the wheel. Marlin Magic II released one they called 550+ and Kona Blue released one about 500 pounds and pulled hook on another, also about 500. Nasty Habit also released one that they called 500.
EZ Pickens has been fishing with owners Brad and Vicky Picking every Saturday and Sunday since December. Up until last weekend they averaged one blue a day for a total of 25 blues so far, as well as lots of stripes and spearfish. Their largest to date was in the 500 pound range, tagged and released. In big game fishing, no hot streak lasts forever and last weekend they finally experienced a fishless day.
March 20: Linda Sue weighed a 722 pounder overtaking Ihu Nui in the top position of the Big Fish List. Foxy Lady tagged a 500 pounder.
A few fish under 400 rose on the 21st, Hula Girl caught one about 450 but Sea Genie II would start the 22nd as the pole sitter after tagging a 600 pound blue.
On Friday March 22nd, Night Runner had the “encounter of the week” when they swung and missed a few times at a marlin the experienced skipper and crew both said was the largest either have ever seen.
Huntress tagged two on the 22nd to top singles around the fleet. March 23rd was a “big fish day.” Marlin Magic II tagged one over 500, another at 375 – and also pulled hook on another 500 and one they called 650! Foxy Lady caught a youngster a 492 pound blue.
Honey returned from an overnighter on March 24 with 12 big ahi.
March 25 saw Maverick tag one and set it free, calling it 500 pounds. Hooked Up tagged and blue and two stripeys that day, which sounded like a January report. Waiopai almost got their “Kona Slam” with a nice blue and a stripey but when the spearfish they hooked came unhooked, that was all she wrote.
The next day, Waiopai got even with the billfish gods and caught, tagged and released a blue they called 650, telling it to come back during a tournament.
Northern Lights had the next “encounter of the week” on the 27th., while out holoho, whale watching and relaxing. According to the story posted on the new Facebook page Kona Marlin Report, their relaxation was shattered by a marlin that exceeded all the superlatives usually used such as “monster” or “biggest ever seen” and “giant”. You get the picture. We aren’t talking first timers or novices here, either. These are veterans “to da max” to throw in just one more superlative.
Hooked Up tagged a 450 on March 29 and on March 30 Marlin Magic II was back in the news with two blues tagged, one about 275 and one they estimated to be 575.
No “granders” yet, but that was a total of 20 blues over 500 pounds caught in March alone.
There were some real nice fish caught in April too, and a lot of days where boats caught multiple marlin and multiple species as well. Again, check the Kona Marlin Report page on Facebook for up to the minute catch logs.
Between April 2 and April 5 marlin in the 600 pound class were caught by Pair O Dice, Sapo, Honey and Maverick.
The charter boat Melee had an interesting day on the 9th of April going 1/3, tagging a 700 pound blue. The two they lost were also hefty, estimated at 500+ and 700+.
Blue Hawaii had what they called a 500 pounder expire on them and when they weighed it, the tally was 497. That’s real close to 500!
On April 12, a noteworthy report came in from a skiff. They went 4/8 on marlin, with the largest over 500 pounds.
Multiple catches were logged through all phases of the April moon and some of the reports have been pretty spectacular.
Melee went 3 for 6 on blues on April 14, the same day Humdinger caught 3 blues as well. The next day, Kona Blue caught 4 striped marlin.
Night Runner caught a blue, a spearfish and a sailfish on April 14 and backed that up with a sailfish on April 19 and 20th. Sails are rare in Kona, so they must have found one of those famous secret spots without a name.
Capt. Jeff Fay has been quoted (tongue in cheek) to say that there are few sailfish in calm Kona because there is not enough wind. This might be the reason why Kona is not a sail boaters mecca, but that’s a “Fay-ism” when it comes to sailfish. Truth be told, sailfish are usually a Continental inhabitant, preferring shallow water, the one thing Kona is lacking that actually makes a difference.
Honey went 3 for 4 on blue marlin and 1/1 on striped marlin on April 20, evidence that the full moon does not always dampen the marlin bite.
If that didn’t make you a believer, you would have no choice but to pay attention when Humdinger caught 2 blues, 6 striped marlin and a spearfish, all on April 21 when the moon was bright.
Rounding the turn into the third quarter moon phase, the bite has even gotten better! Anxious went 3 for 3 on blues on April 25, with the largest a healthy 600 pounder.
April 26 was a banner day with Tropical Sun going 3 for 4 on blues with one spearfish and Go Get Em went 3 for 4 on blues AND 3 for 4 on spearfish. J.R.’s Hooker was 2 for 2 on blues as was Waiopai.
The second half of April has produced four more marlin over 500 pounds, a 682 pounder on Bite Me 6 that was brought in because it would not revive at boat side, the largest fish weighed in April – so far.
Bite Me 3 released one they called 600 on April 26, and putting icing on the cake, Pursuit tagged a very thick 800 pounder, fishing one of Kona’s famous fishing spots – “the trail run.”
Melee closed out April going 1 out of 2 bites, catching a 700 pounder and losing a 700 pounder.
So, when wrapping up the month of April, it appears that two more fish over 500 were caught on the waxing first quarter than the waning third quarter. In March, there were more blues caught over 500 than in April, but there was no discernable pattern relative to moon phase. In March the biggest fish so far (722) was caught on the full moon, but in April there were no big ones caught on the full moon. There was action in the moonlight though, and a number of boats caught multiples on a few big moon days.
So, which moon phase is best? Does the moon phase even matter?
People are always trying to figure out when the best fishing occurs. Is it the moon or is it the tide? Could it be the current, or is ocean surface temperature the key? Perhaps, as my grandmother used to say, it’s just the way you hold your mouth.
For those who can contemplate more complex theories, the idea that the best fishing is created by some combination of these elements can have them contemplating complexities, all the live long day.
The fact of the matter is that none of those items contribute to fishing success if there are no fish in the area. Yes, current can cause them to gather in an area but you can have good current and no fish. You just can’t catch fish that are somewhere you are not. And that does happen. Sometimes the fish are just gone. Obviously, that is not the case in Kona, at present.
Once they move in, like now, then those elements may come in to play. Marlin tend to bite around a tide change, but even that is not set in stone. As Capt. Tomo Rogers once said, “If I thought that the only time I had a chance at getting a bite was during the tide change, I’d only fish during the tide change, but I don’t. So, what does that tell you?”
On top of that, the phase of the moon has not seemed to have had much effect on the bite this April, because the fish have been biting throughout the lunar cycle. If one was so inclined, contemplating this complexity could make a live long day drag on forever, if it weren’t for the distraction of all those marlin bites.
The other bottom line is you can’t catch em if you don’t go, so stop wishing and go fishing! No better time then now, by the looks of it.
If you can’t jump a plane now, tournament season starts in June. There are 7 tourneys in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series and an entry fee and format for every style of angler. Events are open to everyone and no experience is required because Kona’s pro charter fleet teaches novices to catch marlin 365 days a year. If you are experienced, better yet!
For more information log on: https://konatournaments.com/
Or Write: firstname.lastname@example.org – 808.557.0908
The great early fishing in Hawaii in 2019 could be a primer for a wide open tournament season this summer. Check the updates on Hawaii’s tournaments in the 2019 Hawaii Division of the Captain of the Year, presented by Sea Genie II! First tournament event is in June, check back at InTheBite for standings and updates. There are also charter spots available for tournament anglers should you like to fish the tournaments yourself.