2012 IGFA Offshore World Championship
Cabo San Lucas, MX
May 13th-18th, 2012
After months of reading everything I could get my hands on, talking and listening to several in the know, thinking through rigging, knots, gear, and strategy with crew and others, Team KingFisher found itself motoring out aboard Redrum Sportsfishing’s 35’ Cabo with anticipation to shake out gear and practice a bit pre-fishing prior to the IGFA Offshore World Championship. As the day progressed striped marlin started showing up, tailing in the light wind chop and we went to work. We made some mistakes, lost a couple fish but soon found a rhythm trolling gear and dead bait and pitching live bait. Lures were not fishing as I expected and it was soon clear that bait, bait, bait is what will find the podium. We finished with 3 Striped Marlin and 1 Dorado, which came on a double. Very exciting to say the least, especially since the marlin was hung on a live bait spin setup that my wife threw…. needless to say, our confidence was high and we were ready for the show.
Time for the captains meeting and boat draw for the next 4 days. Not before a couple of rule clarifications though…’No live bait will be provided like last year, and you cannot buy it at the harbor’…. What? ‘And those hoods you like so much with J hooks…….circle hooks only with bait’. I am rigged and ready for the hoods and circle hooks for live caballitos, which pre-fished best. We expected live bait to produce 90% of our Striped Marlin, the primary target for the tourney. Now it is a dead ballyhoo show and we need to rethink our strategy. After a nice kick off dinner it was off to the room for a last minute gearing session.
The next morning came quick and we loaded our gear onto our first boat the ‘Rebecca’, a 31’ Bertram. We eased just outside of the harbor and jockeyed into position for the shotgun start at 7am. After a couple minutes of getting gear organized and getting to know the crew, the flare was shot and 46 boats hammered down just after sunrise. And the rock and roll begins, the likes of which I have never seen and needs to be witnessed to appreciate. Suffice to say the Mexicans know how to run their boats and are comfortable with running them hard…a very exciting time and great way to get the adrenalin flowing.
The weather greeted us with a light breeze and warm temps. Once out to our fishing grounds we set out with a combo of Kelela lures, dredge, and dead bait; both naked and hooded. It wasn’t long before our troll gear proved it effectiveness and we had our first marlin leadered. As the day progressed we had opportunity to pitch on several tailing marlin, which seemed uninterested with ballyhoo. Things remained steady and we lost a couple to circle hook sets but in the end four Striped Marlin were leadered and a Dorado was brought over the rail. With the extra Dorado points we were pushed ahead of the other 4-marlin boats and found ourselves in a solid 10th place. Not a bad first day….
A test to our motto…..’No Bad Days’. I wish we could have this one back, but that is tournament fishing, I guess. We started out on a nice 42’ Hatteras that we were all looking forward to fish, named ‘Fish Cabo’. Five minutes into the run alarms started sounding and one engine was shut down. After a quick troubleshoot we are headed back. Tournament control met us and offered another boat. After a quick transfer at the dock we were off with the new boat and crew plus an additional 35 minutes of fishing time. Unfortunately it was the morning bite that we were after. Once gear was set on the new boat, fish were brought up in smaller numbers than the day before. We missed opportunities through coordination and being out of sync with each other and the captain. After shaking out the bugs the bite slowed and wind picked up a bit. We continued to make adjustments and managed to leader a couple marlin to get some points on the board. Unfortunately the video from both cameras did not show definitively the species of one release, so it was D/Qed.
Rally time…. We are fishing the 31’ Cabo, ‘Espresso’ from the Picante fleet that is fast and nimble and has had good success in the tournament. After speaking with the captain and mate, we modify our attack and go straight bait with a dredge and teaser off the corners to lift fish and we rely on Cap to get the bait in front of the fish with the fast boat. We have rods baited with ballyhoo to pitch or drop back on quick draw. Our recipe produces, but not as many fish are tailing as the previous day, partly due to the higher winds and colder water pushing in and stirring up the surface. In the end we release 3 fish and have a chance to pitch to a couple from the cockpit to no avail.
We are excited to put a good day in and finish strong. I have optimism due to the fact today’s boat, the ‘Yahoo’, put up huge #s all week and was the number 2 boat for the tournament. So, the morning introduction goes something like this. Captain: ”How would you like to fish today?” Me: ”Exactly the way the team yesterday did” Captain: ”OK, who can cast?” Me: “I can” Captain: ”How far, show me by pointing to the boat you can cast to”. And the conversation continued from there to result in a completely new strategy for chasing marlin; one naked ballyhoo in shotgun with a teaser and dredge on the corners and one guy on the bow ready to pitch bait. Halfway out to our first stop its time for a test. The throttles come to idle and we hear ‘Marlin, Marlin, Marlin”. I grab my rod and am ready to sight a fin and pitch. I see nothing and still hear a lot of yelling. I finally just pitch the bait and hope the Cap gets it in front of the fish that I don’t see. No takers, but it was a good chance to get in sync with Cap. Without mincing any words he says. “Mike, when I say cast, you cast!” Yes sir, Cap. Now I know what the score is and what would usually rub me wrong, I actually take as; ‘this guy wants somebody that works well with him’ and I am excited for our chances because I plan to do exactly that. We motor up north of where the fleet was the day prior and deploy our one rod and teasers. The wind starts to blow in the high teens and the sheep start showing up in the pasture. Swell is 3-4’ and 2-3’ of wind chop on top of that….’are we in the Northwest or Cabo?’ Our first real look comes 30 minutes into the troll when we hear “Marlin!”. I grab a rod and run to the bow and sight the tailing marlin. Cap jockeys the boat into position and I give my best pitch 20’ in front of the fish. Throttles come to idle and I find myself reeling frantically to pick up line because the boat is being blown downhill fast and the gear is still in the water behind us. The fish sounds not to be seen again. After a discussion with Cap, we recognize we’ll need lots of reverse and gear cannot be in the way. New plan, gear out immediately and horse the boat. An hour later we get to test our strategy.
The tailing marlin shows itself and Cap jockeys for position while I’m positioned on the pulpit locked under toe rails. Throttles come idle, I pitch 20-30’ in front and past the fish. ‘Now give that ballyhoo a little motion and time it to bounce off the fishes nose’, or bill in this case. The captain runs the reverse to help. We watch the fish come up and sniff the bait, circle it twice and swim on. The captain yells reel up and throws down the throttles to jump ahead of the fish for another try. Second cast. Same result. My adrenalin is pumping. To watch the experience alone was worth the price of admission but we want some points on the board. A third attempt gets us a little further ahead of the fish that still has not sounded. This cast is far beyond the fish and I have room to play with the action. I get the ballyhoo swimming and vary the speed of the retrieve. Once in front of the fish I slow and twitch it a bit and the fish circles. With the captain maintaining perfect position and helping me control the line, I keep twitching the bait without taking it out of play and I see the marlin’s pectorals flare an iridescent blue and I know he’s mad and ready to strike. One more half circle the bait is gone and my reel is free spooling; now to hook this fish up with that 9/0 circle hook. Slowly the lever drag comes up and slack is taken out and the hook is brought around the corner and bammmmmm, ‘Fish On!’ By far, it was the most exciting hook-up of my life. Little did I know, the fun was just beginning. The next 19 minutes can only be described as a rodeo, taking me back to my younger years. Holding on with my feet under toe rails on the pulpit and my thighs on the railing, the captain starts chasing the fish as I franticly pick up line in this 7-8’ water. Words cannot explain the chase. On a couple occasions we were inches from leadering the fish from the bow. The boat handling alone was incredible. Several times we saw a 42’ Bertram pirouette in its own footprint and charge full throttle forward and backwards to get line. Towards the end of the fight my legs are getting shaky from holding on and I call for a fighting belt and want to leader the fish from the cockpit. Captain says, “OK, but you’re going to take a shower”. Once in the cockpit, the fish is leadered within a couple minutes and yes I took a salt shower.
Next up, Mike Potts with a spin setup takes the bow. Unfortunately, the wind continues to build and we don’t spot any more tailers. Back at the barn we hear we were 1 of 5 boats to land fish in that weather, with another out of that 5 being Team Kora, from WTC.
There were many other exciting moments and experiences that will not soon be forgotten. Our approach to the tournament was everybody gets to fish and rotate duties instead of specific roles with one angler like many other teams in the tournament. Once the points were tallied for all 4 days, we ended up 17th in the world overall, after a D/Qed fish and we took 3rd place in the Dorado side pot thanks to the efforts of Mike Potts. Way to go, Mike!
We are all are very proud and felt like we learned a ton. Tournament fishing is not just fishing. It is working well with your team and crew and taking advantage of your opportunities. A lot of flexibility comes into play and has to be balanced with doing what you know. Mistakes will be made; it’s the spirit that you respond to them that I think brings success and this tournament emphasized that.
The whole experience could not have happened without all of the help from my teammates, my wife Eryn, Mike Potts, Brook Douglas and Klaus Drehmann. Thank you and I hope the memory making was as profound for you as it was for myself. And I also would like to thank our fishing community for all of their support. It reflects on who we are as a community up here in the Northwest.
Folks who played a pivotal role in our success: KingFisher Boats, Lamiglas Rods, Burnewiin, Hogg’s Joe/Mar Hardcore Tackle, Kelela lures, Costa Sunglasses, Columbia Sportswear, and TreFin Group, Inc. and of course the Oregon Tuna Classic Series.
We are excited to compete for the chance to bring Team KingFisher back to the tournament for another shot at being the best in the world. Look out Albies…