As the coming months bring with them cooler temperatures and changing conditions, the sport fishing landscape around the entire state will shift. Different migratory species will come and go, weather patterns will become less predictable with passing frontal boundaries and game fish behavior will follow suit. Southeast of the Sunshine State in The Bahamas, changing weather patterns ignite several fisheries, but perhaps none more than the red-hot wahoo bite. With countless anglers eager to cross the Gulf Stream and take part in the action, there are a few region-specific c tactics to keep in mind with regard to high-speed trolling.
It should be noted that regardless of where you are targeting wahoo, high-speed trolling is certainly not the only effective tactic. However, this method of dragging baits below the surface at speeds sometimes approaching 20 knots is perhaps the most widely recognized when it comes to ‘hoo, and for good reason. Wahoo are proficient pelagic hunters capable of incredible bursts of speed, so trolling at high speeds allows anglers to cover larger areas to zero in on the bite. Furthermore, trolling at these speeds largely eliminates unwanted by-catch, though if you’re still interested in keeping other species in contention, you’ll want to pull the throttles back a bit.
As the region’s version of winter sets in, temperatures will cool considerably as passing frontal boundaries bring wind, rain and a variety of adverse conditions. However, this time of year, it pays to keep a close eye on the forecast to try and find small windows of opportunity between fronts. These windows allow anglers in center consoles to safely cross the Gulf Stream to the wahoo promised land. However, once you arrive, you better have your foul-weather gear on hand because things can get rough in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, the wahoo bite is often so hot that you won’t mind a little salt spray.
While virtually any stretch of blue water within the famous Bahamian archipelago can produce a wahoo this time of year, there are a few hot spots in particular where anglers should focus their efforts. A mere 50 or so miles away from Miami, Bimini has been deemed the “Gateway to The Bahamas” and offers a quality winter wahoo fishery of its own. Bimini is certainly one of the most popular Bahamian ports of call and as a result, the pressure from visiting anglers on local game fish is mounting. If you put in the hours high-speed trolling you’ll get a fair number of bites from a few quality fish, but you’ll have to venture further into the islands for the real giants.
Cay Sal, a small uninhabited island just a short jog from the Florida Keys, offers one of the best wahoo fisheries in the world. Getting to this island is rather simple given its proximity to the Keys, but the requirement to clear customs upon reaching Bahamian waters presents a complication. Unfortunately, there isn’t a customs office within close range of Cay Sal, so fishing here takes some planning.
For those who can make the journey, particularly amid adverse conditions, the area comprising the Out Islands of The Bahamas is the place to be this time of year. Here, many of the fish you encounter may very well have never seen a hook before. Furthermore, the lack of pressure on the local fisheries is reflected in the size of the fish caught. This is certainly the case when it comes to wahoo fishing, as many of the fish caught in the area push 100 pounds.
Among the several locations within the Out Islands conducive to epic wahoo fishing, there are a few in particular that have become bucket-list destinations for hardcore ‘hoo hunters. San Salvador, located due east of Andros, is one of the most remote destinations in The Bahamas. However, upon reaching the secluded island, the wahoo fishing is incredible. Surrounded by blue water and plenty of deep-water structure known to attract wahoo, this is the perfect place to set a spread of lures to high-speed troll. Additional areas within the Out Islands that will provide a hot wahoo bite are Great Exuma, Long Island, Cat Island and any other stretch of blue water in the area.
Regardless of where you choose to set your spread, high-speed wahoo trolling is a very detail-oriented tactic that requires close attention at every level. In other words, you can leave the “set it and forget it” mentality at the dock. From the rod to the lure, everything must be set correctly to not only achieve a proper presentation, but also to handle the violent strike and subsequent fight with a large, angry beast.
Regarding rod and reel outfits, there are a few options here. Some experienced captains and crews use both straight and bent butt rods for this fishery, and you can make either one work. Another important note is that while many will tell you it takes a ton of specialized gear to effectively high-speed troll, those of us who don’t have the budget for such an arsenal can still put together a respectable spread. Ultimately, you’ll need a few 50- wide reels and stout trolling rods.
Keep in mind that those who don’t have bent butt rods at their disposal may need to adjust a few things, including the weight of their trolling leads. At such high speeds, even heavier lures will have a tendency to climb to the surface, where they are far less effective. One of the most important factors to wahoo fishing in general is keeping a sub-surface presentation.
Some anglers choose to go the route of purchasing specialized gear, designed specifically for this fishery. This includes large, heavy-duty reels, sometimes even electric reels, loaded with stainless steel wire main line. This allows anglers to keep their baits below the surface with less weight, as the wire main line will naturally plunge deeper into the water column than monofilament. As you can see, there is a bit of wiggle room when it comes to the outfits you choose, but regardless, this is not a light tackle fishery and you must come prepared.
Terminal tackle is another incredibly important consideration, particularly in this pursuit where you’re dealing with high speeds, a tremendous amount of drag, large fish and razor-sharp teeth. Let’s start at the business end of it all – the lure. There are plenty of wahoo lures out there to choose from, and it seems every angler has a unique personal preference, but ultimately you want a large lure that is streamlined enough to avoid creating too much drag when trolled at high speeds. The norm here is a heavy, torpedo-shaped head with skirted material behind it covering the hook or hooks. Regarding hooks, some lures have a single hook and some have a double. Again, the choice here has a lot to do with personal preference, but we’ve found that a single hook lure is the more effective option.
Wahoo are known for many things, but mainly their incredibly sharp teeth. In this fishery, where massive wahoo are the norm, many anglers choose to adorn their lures with heavy-duty cable leaders. This offers the necessary bite protection, but there is virtually no stretch in a cable leader. Therefore, a shock leader between the cable and trolling lead, consisting of 30 to 50 feet of 300 or 400 lb. monofilament to absorb the energy generated by the violent strike, is absolutely necessary while high-speed trolling.
The weight of your lead will be determined by a few things, including the speed at which you are trolling, whether you are fishing a straight or bent butt rod and your choice in monofilament or wire main line. Furthermore, you don’t want all of your lures running at the same depth, so it pays to vary the weights of your trolling leads. This helps you avoid tangles and cover more of the water column. For the most part, your leads will run from 16 to 48 ounces.
Ultimately, a lot goes into achieving an effective high-speed trolling spread. Wahoo are keen hunters and if anything in your presentation is off just a little bit, you’re not going to get the bites you seek. It’s no secret that those who put in the time and effort to dial in their gear and tactics are the ones hoisting massive ‘hoo over the rail.