High Speed Secrets
To get the scoop on high-speed wahoo lures, I spent a morning with two of South Florida’s lure rigging experts-Milton Mercade of Capt. Harry’s in Miami, and Bill Curtiss of Carl’s Bait and Tackle in Davie. Both shops sell the materials needed to rig up wahoo lures, as well as pre-rigged versions of the composite lures described below. What makes a good wahoo lure? All would agree that the lure must run straight, and subsurface, at high trolling speeds. Heavy lures that taper to a point-bulletheads, jets, etc.-get the nod. Also, the lure should have enough flash and profile for a wahoo to locate it in the trolling spread. A flybridge sportfisher steaming along at 14 knots puts out an incredible amount of whitewater, and it is in and around this cloud that a wahoo must home in on your lures. Look at any catalogue or in any tackle store and you’ll find lures that do a fine job of catching wahoo, from inexpensive troll-ing feathers to high-dollar chrome-headed, Mylar-skirted numbers. But, as in all fisheries, the restless creativity of anglers on the cutting edge gives rise to customization. Hence the following two designs, which showcase a number of rigging techniques used by today’s ultra-high-speed trollers. Details such as color, leader material and size, sinker size and hook style can be modified to suit your own needs. Cheaper snap swivels, however, cannot be substituted. As a rule, don’t pay less than three dollars apiece for snaps; otherwise, you’ll be courting fatal line twist. Curtiss: Sea Witch and Octopus Skirt For school-size wahoo, 50-pound-class tackle. Start with 6 feet of No. 10 or 12 singlestrand wire. Slide on a 1- to 2-ounce Sea Witch, followed by a pair of 1/2-ounce egg sinkers (to serve as spacers, lengthening and stabilizing the lure). Next, pull a 7- to 9-inch plastic octopus skirt over a 3-ounce egg sinker, and thread the leader through the skirt and sinker. Add plastic spacer beads as needed before haywire twisting the wire to a single 10/0 hook, Mustad 7766 or 3412. To ensure a good hookset on the short-striking ‘hoos, the hook point needs to be far enough back to touch the tips of the skirt; you can trim the skirt if desired.
Mercade: Ilander and Octopus Skirt
Custom rigged for 30-pound-class tackle. Mercade advises novices to use a short section of cable; he chose a 2-foot section of 275-pound-test cable for this lure. Riding in series on the cable is a chrome Ilander (or Billy Bait, or similar lure), a 3-ounce egg sinker under an octopus skirt (plastic point trimmed off to admit the leader), and enough tri-beads to position the trailing member of a 9/0, in-line double hook rig at the tail end of the skirt. The in-line, or straight, hooks, stiff-rigged with cable, differ from the 180- and 90-degree offsets that are popular on marlin lures. Mercade explained that the hooks work as a keel, helping the lure run true. He also showed us the latest in wahoo hooks-a deadly, one-piece, Japanese-made tandem hook inspired by high-speed expert Ron Schatman-but noted that the standard 9/0s would be adequate for the lighter gear we planned to fish.
The Final Touch
The trolling rig may end with the lure, but it isn’t necessarily complete. If you wish to pull lures at really high speeds, you’ll find it helpful to add a cigar sinker between your running line and leader. Curtiss recommends a 6- to 24-ounce sinker, size based on line-class and trolling speed; the upper end would likely max out 50-pound gear at 15 knots, for example. Because wahoo have the habit of biting sinkers, Curtiss adds a few feet of heavy singlestrand wire (No. 15 or 19 for maximum durability) to each end. To the aft end, he adds a heavy-duty ball bearing snap swivel, followed by 10 feet of 150- or 200-pound test monofilament with a loop crimped in one end and ball bearing snap at the other. The mono shock leader puts extra space between the sinker and lure, ostensibly to keep from spooking fish (though some would call it presumptuous to ascribe fear to a wahoo). The leader also adds drag, which helps the arrangement run straight. Attach the complete outfit to a ball bearing snap on your fishing line, and you’re ready to fish. Mercade suggested a similar rig using cable instead of singlestrand, and he adds a separate section of cable crimped to the loops attaching to each ring on the sinker. Trolling sinkers aren’t wired through the core, and wahoo have been known to snap them with their teeth. Mercade also advised using a slightly longer shock leader of 15 to 40 feet.