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July 27, 2009

Wahoo Lite

Maximize wahoo action and minimize fuel burn - the Bermuda Way

Dead-Bait-and-Lure Trolling
When you're looking for fish, trolling remains the most effective way to find them on any given day. So we do a lot of that, pulling a spread of dead baits and lures as we scout the edges and banks off Bermuda. But not at high speeds: Trolling at 8 1/2 knots or so, lighter tackle still works, and you can stretch fuel a longer distance.

It's hard to beat a medium ballyhoo behind a 1 1/2-ounce SeaWitch and skirt. The skirt over the bait's head dramatically increases the life of the bait.

We troll these baits off downriggers with one in each corner of the transom. We rig Mako's downriggers with 12-pound balls and, rather than wire, 200-pound Spectra, which helps get the baits deep. But unlike wire, it doesn't kink and break. Remember that using a downrigger allows for lighter tackle since no weight needs to be attached to the fishing line.

Before we lower the downrigger baits, we preset their distance from  the rigger line using Dacron socks on the lines, one set the same distance back as the second wave and the other back as far as the third wave. The extra work of setting a Dacron sock at the right length on the mono is more than offset by the efficiency with which you can quickly set lines.

With that sock in place, you can run a length of 12-pound mono through the loop the sock makes, attaching the main line to the downrigger ball. The 12-pound will break at the strike. We've found this method far superior to using clips. For one thing, we like a fair amount of tension on the downrigger lines to minimize the amount of drop-back following the strike. For another, it's a strong enough connection to save you a lot of time that's otherwise wasted when lines pull out of the clip.

When trolling this way, we go with 9/0 Mustad 7692s. We attach a No. 10 wire leader with a haywire to the hook, making sure to leave a pin for rigging the bait, with 7 3/4-inch Yo-Zuri skirts and a SeaWitch or Ilander completing the rig. Whether one attributes it to the feeding style or pure speed of wahoo, the relatively large hooks work just fine even with the gear as light as 20-pound.



From the outriggers, we troll lures behind 6-ounce cigar weights. The Bart's Candy series have proven effective, and lots of other pointy-headed lures work great as well. We finish off our wahoo spread with an unweighted shotgun lure, which may catch not only wahoo, but tuna or blue marlin. One unusual aspect of this spread is how we set up our leaders; we run 4 feet of No. 10, single-strand wire in front of the baits or lures, attached via a 150-pound escapeproof swivel to 20 feet of 250-pound monofilament leader. That 250-pound leader terminates with a crimped loop that is attached to the snap swivel on the rod. We've found that September and May are dangerous times to troll small gear around Bermuda. The potential for a blue marlin attack is always there. Mako caught two granders in May 2006 alone. We find this leader setup gives us a fighting chance to catch  and release the blue marlin when it crashes the party.

If, however, your situation does not include the risk of much bigger fish surprising you, a smaller mono leader of 80 to 100 pounds would provide sufficient shock and abrasion protection. And of course, if you can troll  20-pound outfits, you'll really allow your wahoo to show their stuff. But when fishing over marlin grounds, we go up to 50-pound stand-up outfits with 80-pound mono attached via a double Bimini twist and cat's paw to 80-pound Spectra.

In a nutshell, the key word that really defines light-tackle fishing for that wahoo is "excitement." Try gearing down to maximize the thrills and challenge, the Bermuda way!

About the Author: Capt. Allen DeSilva has spent his entire life fishing the productive waters of Bermuda, where he was born and raised. Highlights of his career in addition to great wahoo and tuna catches include many big blue marlin, a few of them granders. But the 1,352 he caught in 1995 remains the catch of DeSilva's (or any) lifetime. Contact him at