Wa-HOO!” It’s simultaneously a fish species and an exclamation derived from their blistering speed. “Beyond question, the best part of wahoo fishing is hearing that reel scream,” says Ryan Grotta, owner of G-Fly Lures (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Boca Raton, Florida. “There’s not much else that can pull line off the reel like a big wahoo,” adds Capt. George McElveen, owner of Reel McCoy out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, Florida.
For these fish that swim at least 60 mph, trolling at 14, 16 and even 20 knots is now commonplace using techniques developed by Capt. Ron Schatman, winner of a dozen major Bahamas wahoo tournaments over five years. “In 1995, I went from pulling baits at 14 knots to pulling lures at 18 knots,” Schatman says. “From there, it all fell into place.”
High-speed trolling is certainly effective, but so is slow trolling dead bait or lures, trolling live bait, dropping jigs or trolling beneath floating debris, chunking and even kite fishing. Nine experts weigh in with their tips to catch these big, fast fish.
Need for Speed
Capt. Triston Hunt learned the basics of high-speed trolling directly from the master, Schatman. Hunt has since cultivated his technique into pure wahoo science, trolling a six-lure spread even from small boats, and winding up on the leaderboard in quite a few wahoo tournaments aboard his usual ride, Timeless, a 61 Viking, out of Boca Raton, Florida.
“The ideal speed is around 15 knots,” Hunt says. “There’s never any point to going slower. If I’ve got southeast wind, a steady barometer and clear water, and I’m not getting bites, I speed up to cover more ground or pick up and move because they’re biting somewhere.”
Hunt has consistently hooked wahoo trolling as fast as 22 knots, but if he hooks up or marks fish that don’t bite, he’ll go back through at his favorite 14- to 16-knot troll.
Hunt’s six-lure spread is key. “I’ve got my lures out 150, 250 and 350 feet on the port side, and 200, 300 and 450 feet on starboard,” he says. Hunt makes abrupt 15-degree course changes to slide up and down a drop-off, staying between 120 and 350 feet of water. “The farther the bait is out, the more it slows and sinks on those turns, and then it speeds up again when I straighten out,” he says. “Those six lures are all covering different parts of the edge at different speeds and depths.”
To troll beneath the waves — wahoo typically bite below the surface — Hunt uses 100-pound mono atop Spectra on 50-wide reels with drags set to 30 pounds. His lures are rigged on four feet of No. 19 piano wire attached to a 25-foot 400-pound monofilament shock cord. A cabled trolling lead links the shock cord to his main line — generally 48-ounce leads on the shorts, 32-ounce leads on the mids, a 24-ounce lead on the 350-foot line and a 16-ounce lead on the 450-footer.