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April 02, 2013

Hemingway: A Love Affair With Bimini

To angling celebrities from Zane Grey to Martin Luther King to my grandfather Ernest Hemingway, the tiny Bahamian outpost of Bimini has always had a reputation for some of the best fishing on the planet.

I caught one of their flights from Ft Lauderdale, Florida, with my girlfriend in February, and we were in Bimini a half an hour later just in time for the presentation of the 2013 Wahoo Smackdown Tournament in the “Hemingway Rum Lounge” of the Bimini Big Game Club.

The Big Game Club had hosted a previous tournament in November but participation in the February 21-23 event, with over 20 boats and close to 200 anglers, was even greater. Thanks to Mike Weber, the general manager of the Big Game Club, I was invited by Capt. Alex Jimenez and his crew on the 32-foot SeaVee Makin' It Happen to see what the cutting edge of wahoo fishing was all about.

hemingway beerAlex told us to meet him at the dock at 6 a.m., which I thought was exaggeration, but I later found out that others had left even earlier at 4 and 3. Alex explained that there were three ingredients to any good day of wahoo fishing: tides, barometer and wind. The wahoo would always be biting wherever you found these three factors peaking.

We were heading to a particular spot that he liked about 50 miles south of Bimini at the edge of a bank drop-off. “The wahoo,” said Alex, “are opportunistic hunters and like the deeper water from 150 to 500 feet, where they can surprise their prey with lightening-fast bolts to the surface.” That was also why we were trolling much faster than I remembered ever moving in the 1960s. “Wahoo,” Alex explained, “like a fast lure.” It mimicked the speed of their prey, and we followed the edge of the drop-off at about 16 knots, cutting a course that was a gradual S-shape. And it worked!

Fifteen minutes after dropping the lures in the water we hooked a 40-pounder on the port gunwale line. It was a promising start but soon thereafter, one of the Mercury 300-horsepower outboard engines died and Alex had to change both fuel filters before we were able to start fishing again. By that time, the bite was gone and we didn't catch anything else for the rest of the day. It was bad luck, but at least we had the spare fuel filters.

On the second day out, Alex and his crew bounced back with a total catch of 12 fish, including a dolphin, which won first prize in its category. This time we headed north and left an hour earlier at 5.