Captain’s Log, Mid-July 1983: Weather clear, wind forecast 10 to 15 knots from the southwest, switching at night to south, 3 to 6, then southeast 12 to 18 the next two days. Seas: 2 to 4, 1 to 2, 3 to 5, then 6 to 8 — not a bad forecast.
Matter of fact, it was flat-ass calm when we left for our trip to an area near the 100-fathom line called the Dip. I met captains Mike Forman and Jamie Hummel at Indian Cove Marina that morning where my Makaira was berthed. Mike and Jamie had fueled the boat already, and stocked it with 1,800 pounds of ice, day baits and swordfish rigs, along with our normal food — three gallons of milk, Twinkies, three pounds of baloney, three pounds of ham, three pounds of turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, Nestlé Quik, four-dozen eggs, two pounds of cheese, 16 hard rolls and, on standby, a case of Spam. Unfortunately, we all smoked back then, so two cartons of Marlboros were also aboard.
We had succumbed on this trip to a fad that was gaining popularity in those days — topshots of braid on Dacron was supposedly far superior to mono because of its reduced stretch. So, with the money flowing well back then, we dumped 11 reels — 80-wides and 130s — of all their mono, and spooled up with braid from five different manufacturers.
The trip to the grounds was pretty uneventful, my log reveals, and upon arriving at the Dip, we found the water to be an ugly gray color. Other reports from nearby spots were equally dismal, and we all agreed that our mission would be quite simple: We would travel east another 30 to 50 miles past the 100-fathom line.
In typical fashion, we trolled out, watching finback whales, huge oil slicks and killer whales on the way. Suddenly, sea turtles and migrating hammerhead sharks greeted us on a 7-degree temperature break, and we knew that all hell was about to break loose.
Twenty minutes later, here came the wolf pack! The first bigeye tuna engulfed the right rigger with such a vengeance that it threw white water into the cockpit. Then the left and right flat lines went off in monstrous holes. Screaming line peeled off the reels, and the Barta SS Throttle Dance ensued — hard left, hard right, hard left, hard right, power on, power off, and then here came the submarines! They exploded the short, left-long, right-long and center riggers. We were hooked up to eight bigeye, all three of us in full battle mode.
But over the next 36 minutes, we pulled every single hook on every fish.
We were livid. How could this be? We were only the best bigeye fishermen in the world. This sort of thing had never happened. As I started to yell at Mike and Jamie for not setting the drags properly, they exploded right back. All were set at 8 pounds of strike. We fired the lures out again and were immediately covered up by six more fish, all between 275 to 300 pounds, dressed, the captain’s log indicates. But again, every hook quickly pulled.
After a sleepless night, we latched into four more bigeye the next the morning, dropping three and catching one, a 282-pounder, dressed. Dejected, I finally headed Makaira home. We had 21 bigeye hook-ups, with one caught. It was unequivocally the worst trip ever recorded in my captain’s log.
Later in our careers, we would use Dacron and braid quite a bit for static giant tuna fishing, but we never really used any of this stuff again when trolling for tunas. The stretch of mono had actually been a positive, not a negative. The throttle dance and the braid’s lack of line stretch did not work with the bigeye.
Perhaps that’s why when using braid, so many people use mono headers when fishing for tuna and marlin. Oh, by the way, back at the dock, Mike and I generously gave away the rest of our braid — to our enemies.
Till next tide,
Capt. Tred Barta
For all things Tred, go to tredbarta.com.