Tournament ready to go — weather permitting
Okay, here we go. It is now time to fish the season's final tournament bar a few private club events.
Apart from the organisation of the competitive season, after about mid- September, the weather settles fairly quickly into its winter pattern that makes a planned excursion offshore unlikely, particularly if you are restricted to weekends as most sports anglers are.
Forget the criticism raised by a few to The Royal Gazette Wahoo Tournament. So, it did not go off as originally planned some nine months or a year ago. The tournament schedule published early in the year is subject to change not only due to the obvious, i.e. weather but also for organisational reasons. So, a change is not a big thing, especially when it provides several weeks' notice.
Now let's look on the positive side of things: if the tournament had been slated (as it originally was) for last Sunday, it probably would have been postponed anyway because of the weather forecast. As it turned out, it was perfectly fishable but the forecast has to be taken as read, particularly when it is tropical season and, with today's technology, the movement of the various storm systems is fairly predictable.
Now we have this weekend to look forward to. Providing, of course, that Humberto doesn't decide to do something silly like interfere with our fishing! Happily, he is still pretty far away and on the present plot will take another week to get to us. At the moment, the Sunday forecast is quite encouraging and tournament organisers are usually much happier to get an event off at the first opportunity. Naturally the final call will have to be made on the day but it rather looks like everyone should be ready.
The other thing, of course, is that each boat captain is ultimately responsible for his or her own craft. Whether a tournament is on or off has little to do with the skipper's decision-making. Tournament organisers can and have got the call wrong and it is only the individual who knows the actual capabilities of their craft and crew.
In many of the big billfish tournaments, the rules categorically state that the fishing is on during the appointed days, regardless of weather and whether a boat goes or not is totally the operator's responsibility. This has even included hurricanes and other extreme weather. Surprisingly, it is not as Draconian as it sounds; some tournaments are fished over very large areas with significant land masses providing opportunities for lee shores. Thus a storm can be ranging on the other side of the mountain, as it were, with considerably calmer conditions on the leeward side of the Island. Bermudians forget that some islands are hundreds of miles long and have mountains over 10,000 feet high.
Obviously, that does not apply here but in the case of what might seem a marginal call to some skippers, then the final decision lies with them.
As it stands there are 37 boats with 147 anglers entered into The Royal Gazette Wahoo Tournament. These will be trying probably every known tactic to try and come up with a fish that wins at least one of the recognised line classes.
For most, good, old-fashioned trolling of baits will be the starting point. Although garfish are usually the preferred bait — they are easy to rig and fit comfortably behind most feathered or skirted lures — they seem to be in short supply so many anglers are going to be using flying fish instead. Not an issue, really. In fact, there are a few who would argues that the flyer makes a better troll bait. They usually last longer and certainly just about every predator eats them with alacrity.
Many will put in an hour or two trying to get some live robins. While no one is going to argue the advantages of live baits, there are plenty who have pretty much given up on getting any robins. For whatever reason, this year they have been thin on the ground and pretty unwilling. Normally, frigate mackerel would be the live bait of choice but, so far, these have not shown up on the offshore grounds even though there are a few in the inshore and channel waters. Things can change and, just maybe, the blow earlier this week will have effected that change.
The number of boats involved pretty much guarantees that the bottom will be adequately worked over to reveal any concentrations of wahoo. Up until about two weeks ago, the reports being received gave some indication that a wahoo run might be in its infancy. Things weren't great: the fish were small but numbers were showing some sign of increasing. Then just last week, everything went really quiet with even normally successful boats striking out. Whether this was due to an impending change in the weather, no one can be too sure but the next few days will reveal if the run is taking place as hoped for.
Most of the effort will be directed off the western end of the Island with the Banks playing a prominent role. This is the usual case but don't discount the East End entirely. Winners have pretty consistently come form that area and, over the last few weeks, a few decent wahoo catches were made down that way. After all, it only takes one fish to win a category. The bottom down there is a lot closer to the channel and reef waters that might give up a few frigate mackerel and it will only take one live bait in the right place to provide a winner.
Although the focus will firmly be on wahoo, there continue to be other species offshore that will take baits. Now is an excellent time for large blackfin tuna and while chumming is the preferred method for catching them, they are not averse to hitting trolled offerings. Barracuda are also around in good numbers and, all too often one of their slashing attacks on a bait is mistaken for a wahoo hit. Many an angler has had visions of a prize winner vaporise as a spotty silvery-black silhouette comes into view.
Yellowfin are relatively scarce but should be on the move now and there may be some large ones passing through.
Any of these can make a mockery of the lighter tackle intended for wahoo and the blue marlin are still lurking just off in the deep, ready for a sortie onto the edge to take whatever might be on offer. Visions of a record-breaking ‘hoo can disappear instantly as the billfish breaks water. Just make sure that you get a good look before parting the line, big wahoo sometimes hurtle through the surface, bursting into the air just like a marlin and it would be regrettable to bring a premature ending to those Tight lines!!!