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'Hoos in the Hundred Class

For that wahoo of a lifetime, you need to send out a big live bait.

'Hoos in the Hundred Class
From left to right: David Cheek, Phil Kelly, Daniel Samurin, Larkin Goelz, fishing partners of Capt. Frank Vining with a 102.5-pound wahoo, caught Dec. 28, 2023.

Four wahoo over 100 pounds. Yes, you read that right. Right in Northeast Florida, Capt. Frank Vining has caught FOUR triple-digit wahoo and has lost count of the ones over 80 pounds. I’m 71 years old, have fished my whole life and I’ve never broken 80 pounds.

Yes, it’s easy to see Capt. Frank Vining of the 39-foot Contender Walk Thru, clearly has the big wahoo dialed in. Now, it’s been decades since boats started dragging big lures at high speeds to catch big wahoo, and Frank is really good at that method, too.

“I just got to thinking that we learned long ago that wahoo were more structure-oriented,” Frank explained, “but as high-speeding grew I began to feel that when more than a boat or two got over a piece of structure holding bait, the party seemed to be over. I knew what a difference live baiting made when looking for big kingfish, it’s just a different time of year, and a different species.”

wahoo fishing rig
Wahoo candy: Big live blue runner festooned with stinger hooks. Also good for kings!

I learned a long time ago that timing is everything in life. My first thought after talking with Capt. Frank was why o’ why didn’t we jig up some blue runners and put them out for wahoo when we bottom fished the 120- to 140-foot range? It was Capt. Roger Walker that reminded me that it would have been impossible to fish a live blue runner in 21 fathoms. “Don’t you remember when we couldn’t ever catch a grunt in 21 fathoms?” Walker pointed out. “There were so many predators like huge amberjack, big kings, and barracuda, we never could have gotten the runners away from the shadow of the boat.”

Now Capt. Frank and many other wahoo aces are still high-speeding, but when that first reel starts screaming, the closest bottom structure around starts getting bombed with big sabiki or small diamond jigs. My favorite runner/bullet bonito bait is a Luhr-Jensen Crippled Herring. I like the action and the single hook makes it easier to make the transition from getting caught, to becoming bait.

The magic live bait rig is kind of an industrial strength kingfish rig. A 4/0 to 5/0 single hook goes through the nostrils with a No. 1 treble hook in the back roughly two-thirds the way down the runner’s back.

“Yes,” Frank said, “we do get disappointed by giant amberjack or big kings that take off at first just like a wahoo. Our other big disappointment comes from an ever-increasing number of sharks. Sharks are getting ridiculous. We try to get on a big wahoo as soon as possible. Let them stay stretched out too long, and the heartbreak of reeling in the head of a hundred-pounder will become all too real.”

As for where and when to fish, Frank likes water between 70 and 76 degrees. He also prefers natural bottom.

“The late Capt. Frank Strickland of the Rebecca Ann out of Fernandina taught me the basics of live baiting in deep water,” Frank said. “I will sometimes sit on a spot for 4 hours if it’s holding bait, and I’m convinced there’s a monster there.”

Frank Vining is truly on a different level when it comes to big wahoo. It’s hard to fathom a 102, 106, 113, and an anchor fish of 121 pounds. Any one of those fish would be the fish of a lifetime for the rest of us.


  • This article was featured in the May issue of Florida Sportsman magazine. Click to subscribe.



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