Masters Billfish Tournament Surprise. Fish of a lifetime on 16 lb mono.Ben Secrest
I was very fortunate recently to fish with an old friend Jock Albright on his 44 Pacifica “Kea Kai” int he recent Masters Billfish tournament out of Newport Beach, California. I had fished with Jock the last 15 years or so in this tournament with good success and was looking to catch a couple Stripe Marlin on 12 or 16 lb IGFA mono which is a feat in itself. This type of fishing takes team work between the captain running the boat, guys on the deck, and the wireman constant attention to the situation as it evolves.
In the past we had won and placed in the tournament which was prestigious but more fun than anything. On our perish day we saw a few fish and I ended up catching one a jig as we looked to see if we could find a concentration of fish in our local banks. The first day of the tourney we saw fish but could not get one to go so the frustration level was up. Second day started out with a bang with Charlie hooking a fish on 12 lb only to get the short end of the rod as the fish created a giant loop in the line as he dove deep then came up to jump. We saw a second fish hooked with the same ending.
We knew there were fish in the area and were hoping to see a few more chances arise on the afternoon tide. As the tide was at its height we had a fish up behind the boat and I used my 16 lb mono drop back setup with a mackerel and circle hook combo. Within seconds I was bit but it did not feel right and the usual jumping fish behind the boat did not appear. Whatever the gamefish it acted more like tuna than billfish. We had seen the best tuna year in the history of the west coast with big Bluefins and good yellowfins throughout the season. We cleared the jigs and I got up to the bow to start the process on the hard fighting adversary.
Not expecting to be on light line and hook a tuna the party began trying to pull on 16lb hard enough to slow this fish down. This is when its important to have the right rod for the right situation which means action, action, action. Light line fishing requires a rod with a very good parabolic action but enough back bone to lift the fish when possible. The rod of choice for my drop back baits has always been a Calstar 700XL with AFTCO roller guides on it and my reel was a trusty FURY FX-500X loaded with MoMoi 16lb mono IGFA line. I have used this for 15 years with several 12b mono Marlin captured. Most of the billfish hooked on light line are the ability of a great captain to run them down, good anglers knowing when to wind as well as seeing how the fish patterns during the fight, and a great wireman able to reach out and pop the fish off. As said before it takes a team to accomplish the results.
Thing with a tuna it is usually straight down with very little boat movement and a virtual hand to hand combat program where the angler gets 4 cranks and the tuna gets a couple back. This battle was a great learning experience for me after experiencing a lot of different things throughout my life this one gave me a different perspective of actual drag and ability to lift on a bigger fish with light line. Most anglers stay to the 1/3 to a 1/4 drag of the breaking strength of your line. Remember time is not your friend with light line and the longer you have them on the more probability you will lose them. My blessing was the Masters required all circle hooks which I had to adhered too. I had 60 lb floor leader attached to the double line with a ball knot. The important thing of what I am sharing has to do with the comfort and experience you have with lighter line. I never backed off this fish drag wise and the battle continued over the same stretch of line for 3.5 hours. Most important part of this battle was constantly reading how much drag I could actually get on the fish with the use of the rod. The rod was loaded the entire time and between that pressure and the additional pressure of me pinching the spool when needed I kept a crazy 10 lbs of drag on the fish. Key thing was keeping constant even pressure on the fish which you can slowly lift him without upsetting his demeanor. Any the of jerking action during battles on light line with result in further runs and the fish getting his head down and taking even longer. Key is to put your self in a happy place and pay attention to your rod tip. If it moves ever so slightly make sure you are winding in line to put the rod in the same place. End result for us was a 81.2 ounce yellowfin tuna on 16lb IGFA line which took us 3.5 hours in the making. Stoked to have this one under the belt for sure.
This type of battle will teach you patience while it tests your knots, tackle, and ability to stay within yourself as hours pass. There is no greater feeling than being able to land a fish like this and the memory for me is constantly relived. Understanding rod dynamics and how much drag you put on the reel with ability to measure total pressure by your hand will help you with future battles. Unfortunately, the only way to gain the experience is to live it so remember rod actions are i portent with light line fishing and being able to decipher actual drag setting is key to your overall success. Keep your rod loaded with slow, even pressure will result in success in the future.