How to catch wahoo – Sun

Most anglers catch wahoos by accident.

They’re trolling for dolphin or live-baiting for kingfish when a wahoo hits and makes their day.

But as the experts assembled earlier this week at R.J. Boyle’s Get Tight! Swordfish Wahoo seminar revealed, there are numerous ways to target wahoo in South Florida.

One of the biggest keys to catching wahoo is to fish where bait is plentiful.

“There might not be a wahoo there this minute,” Capt. Stan Hunt said, “but stay in the bait.”

Hunt, who runs charters on his sportfisherman Rebound out of Hillsboro Inlet Marina, made history two years ago when he and his crew won the Pompano Beach Saltwater Showdown and $99,000 for a catch highlighted by a 74.2-pound wahoo.

He prefers to troll for wahoo and uses Sea Witches that he makes himself with bonito strips or whole ballyhoos. His favorite color Sea Witch is blue-and-white, which he uses every day. On overcast days he’ll also use black and purple-and-black Sea Witches.

Capt. Ray Rosher, of Miami, likes black-and-silver lures. Capt. Chip Sheehan, of Boynton Beach, uses split-tail mullet and bonito strips on deep lines and ballyhoo on the surface.

One of the benefits of trolling strips for Hunt’s customers is they catch all types of fish, not just wahoo.

Fishing last month on Rebound, Jennifer Reeves of the Florida Insider Fishing Report on Sun Sports and the weekend meteorologist with NBC6 in Miami caught dolphin, kingfish and her first wahoo on Sea Witches with bonito strips.

The captains all troll at different speeds. If he’s using planers off Hillsboro Inlet, Hunt trolls at 7-9 knots. If Hunt is not getting bites, he’ll increase his speed.

“Go faster to entice them,” he said. “Go as fast as you can do without pulling line off the reel.”

Wahoo have mouths full of teeth, so most captains use a piece of leader wire to prevent the fish from cutting the line. Hunt said that one of his secrets is to use a 2-foot piece of 30-pound titanium leader in place of wire.

“It’s smaller, so they don’t see it as much,” Hunt said. “And it doesn’t shine like wire.”

Titanium also doesn’t kink and break like wire can. Hunt connects the titanium leader with a Spro swivel to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Another secret of the pros is to rig a single hook placed well back in the bonito strip or ballyhoo.

The consensus was that baits with single hooks swim better — Hunt and his mate Tom Bardes check all their baits by putting them in the water close to the boat to make sure they swim properly and don’t spin before they drop them back — and that a wahoo tends to bite a bait in front of the tail to disable it.

Asked about their favorite live baits, Sheehan said speedos, Rosher said small bonitos, Capt. Bouncer Smith said speedos and bonitos up to 6 pounds and Capt. Dean Panos said speedos and goggle-eyes on kite lines and herring and pilchards on flat lines.

Most of them use a stinger rig consisting of a 5/0 hook in the top of a big bait’s mouth and a No. 2 treble hook at the back of the bait.

If a wahoo hits a kite bait but doesn’t get hooked, they’ll drop back the bait hoping the wahoo returns to finish it off.

If that doesn’t happen, Sheehan leaves the line attached to the kite and lifts the whacked bait up and down so it splashes on the surface to attract the wahoo. Hunt pops the line out of the kite clip and reels in the bait as fast as possible on the surface to entice a bite.

If the long kite bait gets hit but not eaten, Smith lets out his kite to position the short bait in the spot where the hit occurred. If you hook a wahoo on the far bait, that’s also a good strategy for getting a second wahoo to bite.

swaters@tribune.com or 954-356-4648

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