Tim Altman hoists a chunky wahoo hooked trolling off Jacksonville.

Tim Altman, captain of the Jacksonville based Saltwater Challenge, lives to troll at 20 knots. His trolling weights weigh 6 pounds. His lures weigh 4 pounds. Giant wahoo are his target, and he’s very good at his game.

Tim targets wahoo all year, but December through April is his favorite season. “Let it get so cold that all the water inshore of the 28 fathom ledge is below 70 degrees and the big ledge that marks the start of the continental shelf will be magic,” said Tim. “Let the temp reach 70 degrees on the beach and they are apt to be anywhere.” “I let technology tell me where to fish by using Roffs Fishing Satellite Charts, and if I need to split the day up, I’ll let the solunar tables tell me when,” he added.

Keep in mind that trolling at 20 knots for 8 hours covers an incred- ible 160 miles. Tim reiterates the importance of laying out your day. “I’ve actually kept records of what time the wahoo are apt to bite at particular spots. There’s nothing like a school of blue runners to get me to hang around a spot. Outside of obvious bait on the surface, we move from proven bottom structure to more bottom structure. It’s beeliner fishermen that make the best new crew members for me. Find me a big school of beeliners in 70-degree water and I’ll show you a fat wahoo.”

C&H Mr. Big, typical high-speed lure.

High-speed wahoo fishing requires specialized gear. The goal is to keep your baits well below the surface at 20 knots. That requires either braid or Monel wire line. It also requires the best in swivels, crimps, chafing loops and other connections. Tim fishes 130-pound braid to a weight of 36 to 96 ounces. It’s also important to put wire on each end of the weights as wahoo will often chomp on the weight. Next comes a 30-foot leader of 300-pound mono to a big, straight-running lure (usually a steel head), with a 900-pound cable between his two hook setup. The goal is for your 80-pound bent butt setup not to have a weak point that can’t stand the violent collision of wahoo and 20-knot lure.

Asking Tim why he thought he caught more wahoo at 20 knots brought a chuckle. “We don’t catch more wahoo. We just avoid more amberjack, barracuda and other fish. We have had the occasional big mahi strike at 20 knots but’s rare. Listen, if you pull mullet or ballyhoo over the places we fish, you’ll stay hooked up till you’re out of leaders. Just don’t look for many giant wahoo among your catch.”

Tim says his crew does better than most when it comes to the end game. “Getting bites is the easy part. Getting the hooks to stay in a wahoo’s mouth after he hits it at 20 knots is the hard part. First off, don’t slow down too much. Figure his mouth is torn, and you have to keep the hook from falling out. That means you have to keep him coming steadily, and always under pressure.” FS

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