Size does matter for most fishermen and often the angler that lands the largest fish of the day, gains bragging rights back on land.
“Look at the size of that fish,” an anxious fisherman announces as his hooked fish tires and comes unwillingly to the fisherman’s landing device. “This is by far the largest fish I have ever hooked. Please, please let me land this fish!”
Soon the tired fish is landed where shouts of joy are heard from near and far by the exuberant fisherman. In many cases fishing on foot, or from a fishing boat, the angler heads straight for the bait shop where the big fish can be weighed and recorded.
Frequently, nearby fishermen watching a big fish being caught often join in with the celebration that often follows. Unfortunately some fishing boats come too close to a nearby boat that is hooked up to a big fish, causing the angler to lose his big catch. Nearby fishermen have often come to the aid of a fisherman hooked up to a giant fish as well. In other cases, fishermen may go way out of their way to help a nearby fisherman land his big fish.
In one such instance, a pair of fishermen had their small boat anchored in a deep channel during a major cobia run. Large live whiting were barbed with 8/0 circle hooks and well weighted with lead so they could be fished dead on the bottom of the deep channel. Conditions were perfect for landing a giant cobia that may well weigh over the seventy pound mark. Their reels were spooled with brand new fifty-pound fishing line and their hooks were sharpened for making a perfect hook set. Their cooler was full of ice and cold drinks, the boat’s battery was fully charged and the fuel tank was full of gas. Everything was carefully planned before they left the boat ramp to make their day of cobia fishing a complete success. Except for bringing on board a landing net, or gaff!
Obviously their major goof up wasn’t discovered until one of them hooked a giant of a cobia and the fish began to tire at boat side. That’s when they discovered they had forgotten to bring along a long handled gaff.
However a nearby solo fisherman saw that they needed a landing device and dove from his small boat with his own gaff in hand. Swimming against a strong current, the angler reached the two fishermen and handed them his gaff. Once their trophy cobia was gaffed and placed in their boat’s cooler, the helpful fisherman swam back to his boat with his gaff!
The moral of this story concludes, chances of landing a big fish without having the right fishing tackle and necessary gear on board, are very slim.
Big fish just don’t eat your bait, or strike your lure on every fishing trip. I know of good fishermen that have fished a lifetime without catching a sizable king mackerel or trophy largemouth bass even though they fish with excellent fishing tackle with reel drags working smoothly, all of their hooks have been sharpened, and their fishing rod guides are in excellent working order. Big fish can be extremely difficult to catch, even for the skilled and seasoned fisherman.
Then there are fishermen who hope to catch that fish of a lifetime, but don’t take the time to prepare for that big fish fight. And in some cases, it isn’t the angler’s mistake when a big fish is lost.
I had the opportunity to fish Cuba’s Treasure Lake for giant bass several fishing seasons ago when I hooked a bigmouth bass that weighed better than ten pounds. My Cuban guide waited anxiously for the tiring bass to come to his large landing net. While playing my bass closer to the net, I noted that the large worm hook was just hanging on by a small thread of skin outside of the bass’s mouth. At that same moment, the guide swooped my bass out of the water with his landing net. Unfortunately, the rotten net busted out from the bottom and the bass hook pulled free at the same moment, dropping my big bass back into the lake!
Then there was the time that my son Terry David and me were fishing in the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament and had our fifth big king hooked up at the St. Mary’s north jetties. Terry David played the thirty pound plus kingfish just like normal with a light drag setting and while holding the rod tip high so that the light rod tip action would not jerk the small treble hooks free.
We had the big “Mack” tired and laying on the surface when I reached out to gaff the kingfish a nearby passing luxury boat’s wake nearly turned our center console kingfish boat over. At the same time, the jerking boat motion caused the kingfish hooks to pull free and we had to settle for second place instead of first!
However, one of my favorite fish stories came from charter boat captain, Chris Holland. Fishing some forty miles off from Georgia’s coastline at the popular Brunswick Bottom, the charter boat was drifting over a small rock ledge for grouper and red snapper when a guest hooked and played a five pound red snapper to the surface. Following the hooked snapper was a huge dark shadow that came closer and closer to the struggling red snapper. As the snapper was just about to be landed, a huge amberjack, weighing well over eighty pounds, slammed the struggling red snapper right on the surface! The angler fed line to the giant jack, and then set the hook. Thirty minutes later, the giant amberjack was lying gasping on the back deck of the Misti Lynn charter fishing boat.
On July 2, 2009, Manabu Kurita was fishing with a live bluegill under a cork on Japan’s Lake Bua when a giant of a largemouth bass ate his live bait. A vicious fight followed and the giant bass was finally boated. Kurita’s big bass officially weighed 22.5 pounds and now shares the IGFA record with George Perry in the largemouth bass category.
The moral of this story concludes that Manabu Kurita knew there were big bass in the lake and was well prepared by spooling his brand new Shimano reel with 25-pound fluorocarbon fishing lines and fished with what most big bass dine on—large, live bluegills!
The Quest for giant fish can become a reality when employing the right fishing tackle, baits, lures and fishing knowledge.
Locating the right structure that has a history for holding big fish is key. While many fishermen often target the obvious fish structures like channels, jetties, buoys and artificial reefs, big game fishermen target fish structures that are sometimes hard to find by the average angler. Finding these hidden structures often takes a lot of hard work while plotting the bottom with your fish finder and actually fishing the structures to determine if big fish are holding close to, or on, the structure. You can also locate these hidden big fish structures by using John McWhite’s “Pro Chip” that gives the locations of those hard to find deep water fish structures. Go to http://www.profindercharts.com or http://www.fishska.com.
Mitchell Roffer offers a fishing forecast service that uses satellite technology to determine where the best conditions for catching game fish will be by taking surveys of water temperatures and conditions over a period of time. For more information, visit http://www.roffs.com.
Finally, it was no accident when the Ocean Isles Fishing Center team won the 2009 SKA National Championship held from Biloxi, Mississippi. The skillful fishing team including Rube McMullan and sons Brant and Barrett of Ocean Isles, NC had a long history of knowing where, when, and how to catch big fish. When their record-breaking 74-pound king mackerel was landed on that memorable king fishing day, their quest for big fish had been accomplished. I am sure that the McMullan’s still have big anticipations on catching even a larger king mackerel!
With summer just around the corner, water temperatures will be running on the warm side attracting baitfish schools and big game fish. Facts that often lead to big fish catches include structure, current, water temperature, clear water, baitfish and fishing with large baits or lures. Preparation and using the right fishing tackle and equipment can also shorten your Quest for Big Fish!
Angler magazine, May 2010