Every year around the Fort Lauderdale Intl Boat show in South Florida the air temperature begins to drop and the winter wahoo migration commences. This marks not only favorable and comfortable trick or treating conditions for the family crew but usually turns on a switch that can ignite a wide-open Bahamas wahoo bite.
Seasoned winter wahoo anglers break out their Shimano Tiagra 80W's, and yes electric reels such as Daiwa's Tanacom / Dendoh 1200 to make the most of an epic bite once the reports start coming through. As south Florida natives, we're very blessed to have the neighboring islands of the Bahamas with some of the most fertile wahoo grounds within a few hour boat ride. High performance center consoles can make short work of these island runs and prepared anglers can be targeting these striped Bluewater predators before most folks back in the states are just getting their day going.
Saltwater anglers that have the determination, resources, patience, and time to learn how to catch wahoo will have some success. However, it's the guys that have lost those monstrous strikes time after time that don't quit and refuse to relive that circle jerk of tangled lines, improper drag tension, or terminal tackle failure. They quickly address the problem, correct it and get the fish in the box.
High speeding for wahoo, a technique developed nearly 3 decades ago in Florida, remains as the single most successful strategy for consistently connecting with not only numbers of wahoo, but also BIGGER wahoo. It requires a specialized crew, the right conditions, the appropriate gear, and we could even go on to say the right platform. One missing element in this recipe and the system just doesn't work. High speeding is not for the faint of heart as the fuel bills tend to be much higher than your average day offshore trolling for mahi-mahi, however the electricity of the blistering bite a wahoo sends throughout the crew is what keeps us coming back.
Specialized tackle is the only option to partake in this level of big game fishing as a pre-made combo special from your local tackle shop isn't going to make the cut. Penn's 70 or 80 International series along with Shimano's Tiagra's 50W and 80W rule the high-speed arenas. These reels are workhorses when it comes to wahoo fishing and have the guts, line capacity, and torque to turn a big fish towards the fish box. Pairing these reels with 50-100lb high quality custom bent butt rods are the only option however, the savviest of crews know that running 2 shorter rods and 2 longer rods for your "longs" will minimize tangles when trolling.
Diving deeper into the rod positioning, we've found that running both of your longer rods in the 6'6 range & long baits off the mid rod holders and shorter rods in the 5'6 range and short baits off your corner rod holders will allow the captain to make tighter zig zags. Making tighter zig zags keeps the spread in cleaner water for a longer period of time and alerts any wahoo nearby of the lures passing through.
The mainline game is always up for debate as we've used both braided line and monofilament as the mainline with similar success. The mandatory component is a heavy monofilament shock leader, usually at least 30 ft of 150 lb mono between the (300 lb) heavy duty ball bearing snap swivel connected to the rod and the other (300 lb) heavy duty ball bearing snap swivel connected to the stainless-steel leader section crimped to the lure. It helps to have a large Cuban yoyo or hand reel to keep the shock cords stored neatly and ready to deploy.
To be clear guys, we're stating that a 300 lb breaking strength rated snap swivel is the minimum we would recommend for high speeding as you must keep in mind these fish are typically striking the bait at speeds exceeding 50 MPH.
Lure selection and color patterns should not be overlooked as experienced wahoo junkies have a select color palette they gravitate towards time and time again. Matching the hatch is always at the top of the list when wanting to get tight quickly however, learning to observe and adapt quickly to the conditions is what a successful wahoo crew puts together seamlessly. The skirted islander style lures pre-rigged with weighted heads are a staple for wahoo anglers and more often than not you will see a mix of blue/white, black/purple, orange/black, black/green, and even a cotton candy concoction in the arsenal. The bonita style hard baits have been around since the early days of Dennis Braid’s Marauder and the Yo-zuri Bonita. Both have a strong reputation for putting consistent quality wahoo on deck.
Following a general rule of thumb when a comes to lighting has always proved us well over the years. The lower the light, the brighter the colors. The more available light, the darker the colors. The contrast of the lure color across the skyline is a major factor in getting bit faster. For example, a black/green may be effective on a day with clear blue skies while a pink/white may stand out better with low light or overcast conditions. Anglers can simply deploy the "catch all" blue/white pattern which has been proven to get strikes in a variety of conditions.
Bait positioning in your spread is also a critical component to enticing a pack of hungry wahoo to chew. Staggering the lures with selected marked distances on each rod/reel setup ensures that a failsafe system is in place and eliminates any confusion amongst the crew. We like using waxed rigging floss which easily helps indicate where each mark is on any rod by reeling the marked line up to the rod tip. The distances we like to use are 100,200,300, & 400 ft. The “shorts” or 100 & 200 marked setups are fished off the corners of the boat. The “longs” or 300 & 400 marked setups are fished off the back middle rod holders on the boat.
Deploying the appropriate weights on each setup is just as important as having enough fuel in the boat. The shorts always run with the heaviest leads, usually 64oz & 48oz. The longs then are downsized with 32oz & 24oz inline wahoo leads rigged on heavy duty stranded stainless-steel cable to avoid losing any wahoo bites mistakenly eating the lead weight instead of the lures.
Sticking to a system and following the course is how good wahoo anglers become phenomenal wahoo fish heads. There will always need to be tweaks that are made to spread but with a dedicated crew and the passionate goal to hit the holy grail of quad of wahoo bites is what keeps blue water junkies high speeding!