14 Days To The Lower Zone (Jan 15 – Feb 8)

FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
This was my 5th trip to the lower zone and first using my own gear. Prior to this year I have simply walked on the boat with a small box full of hooks, weights, sabiki rigs, side cutters and rubber bands and used loaner gear from the boat. I have primarily fished Avet and Accurate reels with my fist ever YFT coming on a handoff using an Okuma Mak 20 SEA. Rods have been Calstar across the board from 30 – 130 lb. rigs. All 100 – 130 setups utilized loop to loop windons or direct insertion with crimps with 25’ of 100 and 130 Blackwater FC.

I have caught my share of fish in the 150 – 180 range and last year boated my first cow (248 lbs). Each year fishing has gotten tougher and I have felt that I might be able to do better if I were fishing more stealthy gear. With this experience behind me and spending way too much time on BD reading reports and chatting with a few of the more helpful and experienced members I broke down and took the plunge.

I arrived at the boat with the usual small box of tackle and a variety of fluorocarbon leader material in addition to a Mak 15 SEA filled with JB Hollow 60 lb., 16 SEA Filled with JB Hollow 100 lb. and 20 SEA filled with TuffLine Solid 100lb. I also had an Avet SX Raptor with 50 lb. Hollow Toro Tamer.

Rods were:

Okuma SCT 30-50 lb. 7’ rod with the SX Raptor on it. This was used to fish Wahoo and bait. Worked great! I love that little SX Raptor.

UC Centaur with the MAK 16.

UC Viper with the MAK 20.

I also borrowed a heavy bait (130 lb.) Avet/Calstar rig from the boat. I fished it once with a skippy and never used it again during the trip.

Flourocarbon:

Seaguar Blue Label 90 lb.

Yo Zuri 60- 80 – 100 lb.

Sunline 100 lb.

Fluorocarbon leaders were 3’ to 6’ long attached with a FG knot. Hooks were primarily Ringed Owner Super Mutu 5/0 tied with a Spangler knot.

Now for the fishing report. First three days were spent looking for biting fish. During that time we put on about 5 tuna and 5 wahoo. I will not bore you with the agonizing details aside from saying that we experienced some very tough conditions and the best fishing was for skip jack. One morning we watched as the super full moon was eclipsed and turned blood red. I am sure that was a sign of some sort. Even the commercial seiner hanging out at the bank gave up and left. The bright spot for me was that once I gave up on fishing my Viper and MAK 20 and switched to the Centaur and Mak 16 my first bait out on this setup produced a hookup on a very nice wahoo. Hook set in the corner of the mouth meant I actually had a chance at landing it. After a blistering sprint around the stern of the boat I ground it in. Success on Day 3! Many other anglers were still without fish.

After that drought we made a move and the next morning got into a slow pic on the fly line and kite. Day 4, with cows being marked on the scope I went back to the Mak 20 Viper 100 lb. rig. No Bueno for the day. Several nice fish were landed on the Kite and bobber balloon. One or two folks had success with the sinker rig and flyline. The hot sticks were managing two or three bites a day on the fly line but there was little if any consistency to it.

Day 5, back in with the Mak 16 and Centaur combo. Mid-morning I manage to hook my first tuna. Probably in the 90 lb. class and kill it quickly. Nothing unusual, I pretty much ground it in. Mid-day my kite rotation comes up and I get my second tuna at about 100 lbs. Big gear and another pretty straight forward grind in. Fishing is so slow during the day most of the other anglers call it quits before sundown. Knowing that is often when tuna show up I make sure I have a bait in the water. And bam I am on with my 3 rd fish for the trip! This one seems like it is in the 100 lb class. Having read several descriptions of fighting styles in the past year and watching a few videos I wanted to go at it as hard as possible just to test my connections and learn what works for me and how different techniques hinder or improve my ability to gain line. I was far more aware of what I was doing and how the fish was or was not reacting to my efforts. End result was that I kept a very tight leash on the fish and he did a lot more head shaking and I steadily gained line as he took me completely around the boat. Just before I got him to deep color he went into another bout of head shaking and the hook pulled. The deckhand who had been assisting me commented on how angry the fish acted and that I had really been doing a good job of putting pressure on the fish. After the hook pulled I was completely fine with things as I had learned a lot during that fight.

Day 6, mid-morning I hook up for the 4th time. 80 lb. class fish and grind him in. Mid-day I hook up for the 5th time. 130 lb. fish I work him hard like the last few and continue experimenting with different methods of gaining line. Stab and grind, load the rod in low gear and let rod recoil and boat rise on the swell lift the fish. The most satisfying situation was when the fish was directly astern and I had the rod pointing at him and it was working OK but remembered seeing Wahoodad (in videos) and the crew on the boat working the side rail for a different leverage angle. I then moved my rod to the side rail and was able to get far more leverage from the side vs. straight on. Was not intuitive but worked great. I killed this fish rather quickly. A couple of fellow anglers were hooked up to similar fish before I got bit but I had mine on deck well before they were able to get their fish to gaff. I managed one more tuna that day with similar results.

Late in the afternoon we trolled around for wahoo and once we found them it was game on. We were getting multiple marauder hookups and landing some really nice wahoo. On my second troll rotation I got hammered and then nearly spooled as the sharks jumped on every wahoo. 30 seconds after getting the jigs back in the water I was bit again and ground another nice wahoo to the boat. Not much for tuna from there out.

My tally for the trip was 4 tuna and 3 wahoo. Hot stick tallied 7-8 tuna and several anglers ended the trip with no bait fish and only one or two tuna and wahoo from their kite and troll rotations.

It was a very tough trip for everyone. Perennial hot sticks accounted for the bulk of the bait fish but there was no real pattern to success other than keeping a good bait in the zone or headed that way. Bobber balloon took two cows on consecutive mornings. I had the most success with belly hooked baits but tried everything in the book at least twice.

Observations:

Crew busted their ass the whole time.

I loved my UC 76 Centaur and Mak 16 SEA combo. I hooked all my fish on this setup!

I really want to get bit on the Viper and Mak 20 SEA. But it would have been overkill on all the fish I did hookup to. I will be stripping off the Tuff Line XP and loading it with JB Hollow 100. I just like the feel of the JB and ability to splice on if needed. I found no advantage to fishing the solid even with the direct tie for the leader.

I hooked two of my tuna and landed my bait wahoo on Seaguar Blue Lable 90 lb. FC. Pretty much worked as expected and performed well. No complaints. Minimal abrasion when I caught my wahoo on it.

I hooked the other two tuna on Sunline 100 lb. FC. Bought this just because. Had it in my tackle bag and the spool came unwound and tangled I decided to cut out the tangled portion. I ended up with a 5’ piece so I used it. Seemed stiff but did not get kinked. No complaints.

I hooked no fish on Yo Zuri Pink 100 lb. FC despite fishing it for nearly half the trip. The Yo Zuri was very difficult to keep straight. Seemed to come off the roll a bit kinked and seemed to get kinkier no matter what I did with it. Did not inspire the same level of confidence that others seem to report.

In general the hotsticks were using ~25 feet of Seaguar Premier 100 and 130. I will likely add some more Premier or Blue Label to my kit next year and try some longer leaders.

I used the FG knot for all my leader connections and had no failures or concerns fishing it with 60 – 100 lb. leader and pulling 30+ lbs. of drag. I was able to tie it quickly and after my fist fish never gave it a second thought. I really liked the fact that I did not end up with the double loops and usual pig tail in the connection when I had fished inserted leaders in the past.

I also used the Spangler knot on all hook connections with the same results.

I know the fish I fought were not that large but I did pull hard and feel that it I would have had good results on the many 150 – 180 class fish I have landed in the past. I am very happy with my UC rods and Makaira reels and am looking forward to putting them through their paces again next year. My Avet SX Raptor performed very well for bait and casting for wahoo.

I will probably back off some on how hard I pull on fish as I feel that I was pulling so hard that I was pissing them off/not letting them run and leading to a lot more head shaking.

Everyone on the AA was great! My fellow anglers were a pleasure to fish with and I am looking forward to next year!

I am sure that I got some of this out of sequence since it is all from memory and no notes but the basics are there.

Good Luck To All!
 
Last edited:

FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
Jake,

Thanks. I had a lot of fun and appreciate your help and company.

Have a great year!
 
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dh515

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Sep 18, 2004
1,421
1,569
So Cal
Name
David
Boat
Intrepid, Red Rooster III, Spirit of Adventure
Great report! Particularly like the facts and observations. I agree completely about pulling hard and pissing the fish off. I hate that head shaking! I tried the same thing a few trips back with the same result. I now think technique probably counts more than strength and smooth is better.

I've been on trips where the pink line has made a difference. That being said, Try the Diamond pink. It seems more supple than Yo-zuri and gets bit well. 80 lb. diameter is .90 mm, abs 99. 100 lb. diameter is a measured 1.01 mm, abs. 130. It is also quite a bit cheaper.
 

FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
I forgot to thank Steve K. for seeing us off on the trip. Good to put a face to a name.

Cheers,
 

r8rs4lf

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Jun 17, 2017
2,186
1,296
48
Tree Juan ho
Name
Al
Boat
Salty AF
Wow, there have been some great reports lately! Good job.
 

DC61

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Dec 28, 2011
968
1,215
Dana Point
Name
Paul L.
Boat
33’ Blackfin
Great report. It sounds as if you have turned from beginner to seasoned angler. Well done! What boat were you on?
 

Cubeye

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Jan 26, 2007
3,386
2,380
Los Angeles
Name
Kub
Boat
17' Gregor
Great report! Particularly like the facts and observations. I agree completely about pulling hard and pissing the fish off. I hate that head shaking! I tried the same thing a few trips back with the same result. I now think technique probably counts more than strength and smooth is better.

I've been on trips where the pink line has made a difference. That being said, Try the Diamond pink. It seems more supple than Yo-zuri and gets bit well. 80 lb. diameter is .90 mm, abs 99. 100 lb. diameter is a measured 1.01 mm, abs. 130. It is also quite a bit cheaper.
Who makes Diamond Pink? Momoi? Same diameters as Yo-Zuri Pink HD fluorocarbon?
 

dh515

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Sep 18, 2004
1,421
1,569
So Cal
Name
David
Boat
Intrepid, Red Rooster III, Spirit of Adventure
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Steve K

Hey, I'm gettin' bit...
Jan 2, 2005
11,191
6,572
Bishop
Name
Steve
Boat
18' Bayrunner, but I like the American Angler and the Red Rooster III
Great report. It sounds as if you have turned from beginner to seasoned angler. Well done! What boat were you on?
AA
Apparently it was either Alcoholics Anonymous or The American Angler. ;)

Yep, great to see you all on departure day. You guys were busy!
 

Alex404

Newbie
Feb 3, 2017
20
24
55
Germany
Name
Alexander
Boat
None
...and he did a lot more head shaking and I steadily gained line as he took me completely around the boat. Just before I got him to deep color he went into another bout of head shaking and the hook pulled.
If found it amazing on how much power these tua still have, even after a long fight. On our trip on the AA, I wanted do film the gaffing of a nice (~150 lbs?) tuna, but only got him shaking his head and running down deep again... :-)

 

Steve K

Hey, I'm gettin' bit...
Jan 2, 2005
11,191
6,572
Bishop
Name
Steve
Boat
18' Bayrunner, but I like the American Angler and the Red Rooster III
If found it amazing on how much power these tua still have, even after a long fight. On our trip on the AA, I wanted do film the gaffing of a nice (~150 lbs?) tuna, but only got him shaking his head and running down deep again... :-)

Alex, was that Michael’s big one. 285 lbs? If so, it was a chunk fish, and I’m not sure what hook was used. If it was a J Hook like a big 9/0-11/0 Mustad 7691, Fish could have been hooked deep and bled like crazy.
 

FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
If found it amazing on how much power these tua still have, even after a long fight. On our trip on the AA, I wanted do film the gaffing of a nice (~150 lbs?) tuna, but only got him shaking his head and running down deep again... :-)

Alex,

Are either you or Michael planning to post a trip report? I would be very interested in how it all worked out for you since you had to travel from Europe and were having a tough time finding left handed gear to use.

Also sounds like Michael had some phenomenal luck and ended up with a very noteworthy catch. Hope you are both home safe and sound with some memories to share.

Cheers,
 

FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
Great report. It sounds as if you have turned from beginner to seasoned angler. Well done! What boat were you on?
Sorry I missed your comment earlier. Was on the American Angler. I still have a ton to learn but now feel worthy of considering myself to have some useful experience behind my opinions. For what they are worth.
 
Last edited:
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OneDay

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Sep 8, 2006
129
84
Saratoga
Name
Ed Hayden
Boat
Pro-line 22 Walk
Thanks for the very informative post with all the information on gear. It is very helpful for us new to long range.

Cheers,
Ed
 

FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
Thanks for the very informative post with all the information on gear. It is very helpful for us new to long range.

Cheers,
Ed
Ed,

Glad you found some of this helpful. That was my intent as investing in LR gear is a significant financial step and buying before you really know what works for you can be very costly. One good thing is that you usually have a fair amount of time between booking a trip and actually getting on the boat to negotiate deals on whatever you choose to buy. I managed to save $100 (~20%) or more on each rod and reel I purchased from the MSRP. Mainly by talking with my local tackle shop and comparing prices in multiple locations.

It never hurts to ask if there is any wiggle room in the listed price of an item. They can always say no. Also no reason to make a deal you are not comfortable with. You can always borrow gear from the boat to cover what you need.

Cheers,
 

RichG

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Jan 20, 2007
1,049
1,167
California
Name
Richard G/
Boat
none
Jam. The Long Beach Fred Hall show is coming up. I know it’s a long way to travel for deals. However some of the retailers are no longer showing up and will do internet deals on line during the show. If you get WON, they usually will place an add. Check with Charkbait, Baja Fish Gear, San On Tackle. Also Bob Sands was doing something with UC rods. However you will have to cost in shipping.
 
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FishRock

Still trying to figure it all out
Mar 27, 2013
1,857
2,488
Alaska
Name
JAM
Boat
Thunnus - 22' Koffler BayBee (1990)
Jam. The Long Beach Fred Hall show is coming up. I know it’s a long way to travel for deals. However some of the retailers are no longer showing up and will do internet deals on line during the show. If you get WON, they usually will place an add. Check with Charkbait, Baja Fish Gear, San On Tackle. Also Bob Sands was doing something with UC rods. However you will have to cost in shipping.
I have already been talking with Jamie at Bob Sands. He is very helpful. The shipping is usually the deal killer even if the pricing is good. I think I only need one more rod to round out my arsenal so I will take my time finding the right deal.

Thanks for the heads up though.

Cheers,
 

Alex404

Newbie
Feb 3, 2017
20
24
55
Germany
Name
Alexander
Boat
None
Alex,

Are either you or Michael planning to post a trip report? I would be very interested in how it all worked out for you since you had to travel from Europe and were having a tough time finding left handed gear to use.

Also sounds like Michael had some phenomenal luck and ended up with a very noteworthy catch. Hope you are both home safe and sound with some memories to share.

Cheers,
Jeff,
I am not so good in writing reports...:oops:
I prefer filming..

I could not get hold of heavy left hand gear and therefore it was really a pain in the a** to fight big tunas for me. Especially as I am a very tall guy and that rail-fishing technique did not work out for me.
I therefore quit fishing once we had enough fish and concentrated on filming. (having enough fish was quite easy as Mike & I were tag sharing ;-) )
 

Steve K

Hey, I'm gettin' bit...
Jan 2, 2005
11,191
6,572
Bishop
Name
Steve
Boat
18' Bayrunner, but I like the American Angler and the Red Rooster III
Here's a pic of me and Tom Mato. Mine was a Buck Ninety-One. His was his second cow of the day. He's a very good angler.

20180119_164315.jpg
 
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