As many of you know I got to finally go on my long awaited bucket list trip. After much research and personal experience, time of year, cost, passenger load etc. I decided to go on a 14 day trip aboard the Royal Star. To tell you the truth the 6 months leading up to the trip were almost just as fun as the 14 days on the water. I asked a ton of questions and got a ton of answers to all of my questions. One interesting thing is how many different answers I would get for the same question. Fishy, Jeff (Holi-e-Mackeral), Utah Tuna, Steve K and Alan Tani plus many others helped feed me a wealth of knowledge......and kept me fired up! I would say I was pretty much prepared for this trip…not really any surprises for me although I did learn a ton…you can only learn so much without actually doing it…. My trip started about 10pm on Christmas day….Kissed the woman and said good bye! I was starting out of San Luis Obispo. I got a call about midnight from Nevada Bob who was also in route and also going on his first 14 day trip. We promised to help each other out in advent of any emergencies. Soon as I hung up I look up and there are 30 foot high waves of flame racing across the hills just south of Carpentaria…..sure enough there go the cops to block the 101…..shit! Found a side track through Ojai and was on my way. Whew! The Royal Star is a first come first load boat…old school! I freaking hate this system. So I roll in around 3am…..there are already 5 or 6 guys in line….. I prefer getting a hotel and wondering up right as the boat is loading….not on this boat! I got a good tackle spot and plenty of room for my 10 rods. Brian was going to be our captain with Blake, Diego, Paul and Chris on deck and Drew and Mike in the Galley. Word is we are going for the lower banks as there was shot at bigger fish than had been at the islands….so away we go with a decent load of Sardines. Don and his company Blackwater would be the trip sponsor. We got a free Salas jig and blackwater t-shirt. 3 Days of eating and drinking followed. We had one very informal galley talk about the basics of how the boat works. No real fishing seminars. First learning tip came in during this time….no one was making top shots…..either everyone had made them, bought them or was having the crew do it. That was a great tip! Get your shit ready beforehand. Don’t wait to do it on the boat. Lower Banks….absolutely nothing….off for Clarion. 2 more days of getting ready and dreaming about big fish. Day 1 Clarion – not much…..sharks were eating everything. Got a couple of tuna maybe about 10 for the day and a wahoo. I got a 50 pounder. Fish for Tubes as soon as it was dark. Not real successful. Day 2 Clarion – I started the day off with my best fish. A 170# on a PL 68 wounded soldier. Wow! I was stoked. My connection held, my knot held and my braise held on the hook I had put on the jig! Cool! Boat had another 10 – 15 fish for the day. I had two more fish in the 130# - 150# range. My shit is still working! Amazing. Baiting making for Tubes again that night for slightly better results. Day 3 Clarion – Slow pick through the day. First cow came when Ben landed a 220# in the hot boring sun while everyone else was eating lunch. Fabulous Sundowner bite. I think we had up to 8 going at a time. The crew was amazing …best I have seen in these bites. I got 2 more 130 – 150# fish. Biggest fish of trip came as sun dropped out of site on the kite. Around 261# Day 4 Clarion – Same as day before….crazy sundowner. I think 3 or 4 cows landed…I farmed two bites …..dammit…my Tony Pena failed but I also slammed the drag forward on the initial bite….no fish for me this day. Day 5 Clarion – Same as day before….slow & hot pick in the day…..crazy sundowner….cows to my left..cows to my right….dammit….I fished hard all day as today was the last day….not a bite……I’m reeling in my last bait of the day…sun is down…I am in a minor tangle….bam! Side by side with my roommate Ben…we both are bit….we both land 160 ish pounders….whew! Day 6 Clarion – John who was snake bit the day before gets a cow on the PL 68 Bait Wrap in Glow Squid pattern. Nice…..couple of other tuna and that was it….we had to head in for an exit interview with the Clarion Islanders….they wanted more fresh water…..so Brian says we have a bit of time for hunting wahoo…..bam! When the dust cleared we had 38 wahoo in less than 2 hours. Great ending to the trip! I got 5. My reflections on the trip The Royal Star is an amazing operation. The deck crew in battle is second to none. Really good! They are also very knowledgeable and know all the latest tricks and what is and what isn’t working. They will bend over backwards to help you and answer all your questions. That being said I wouldn’t say this boat….at least on this trip…is the best for a beginner. We had a couple of beginners with zero long range experience and they caught fish….including one of the cows…but this scene was more geared to experienced folks. The food was freaking amazing. I have fished almost all the long range boats…never seen anything like this. Drew and team is on fire….among other things we had Paella with top shelf ingredients….cooked in huge Paella pans right on the galley tables with propane tanks….we had a whole roasted pig cooked out on deck, Pork Cheeks, Blue Marlin, Buffalo….all with amazing sauces…..I was ready for a ham sandwich by the time I was done…everything was over the top. I brought too much shit…..All you really need is your top shots, hooks….couple of sinkers and jigs…. What worked…..100# and 130#....never a need to use anything less. Top shots were almost always 10 – 15’. 7/0 Mustad Demon Circle hooks. Connections – Insert 3 feet, two nail knots and glue – never failed Tony Pena – On 100# and 130# I had one successful capture on each connection. One failure on 100#....but I kind of had a feeling about my knot…and as mentioned I slammed the drag down too fast. Fishing giant tuna is just like fishing any other tuna on the long soak….hot baits away from the boat get bit the best. Being able to cast was key. I could manage fairly well to get a dean out on a 20, 30 or even 50 Okuma. If you dropped it over the side and prayed out loud for the fish to swim away….the odds were not on your side. PL 68 in the early morning bite Putting in rail time even during the hot crappy middle of the day paid off at times for those putting in the time. Fishing for tubes you needed the correct bait rig….4 hooks with medium size hooks/feathers….the 2 hook and micro hook rigs weren’t working. Also what worked the day before may not work the next day. Be ready to change it up. First time I had seen Dolphin being a pest. Either stealing bait or scaring bait away from the boat. Our 4 top bait tanks…all the sardines died by the time we got to Clarion….the slammers held up and we had hook bait for the duration of the trip. Not much living chumming though Chunking worked at times during the day. People putting the effort got some fish. No whoppers…and lots of sharks. Besides the one Cow….the Kite pretty much sucked on our trip. Also there was no reason for me to have pre made Kite rigs as the Crew let you use there’s. All in all a great trip….I can’t believe just last week I was in such a magical place with such cool people and now I am back in my Monkey Suit working for the man! I so appreciate my woman watching our 2 and a half year old so that I could live my dream….. Can’t wait to do it again. The one downer that is still killing me....someone managed to steal my duffle bag with all my clothes....14 days of clothes....new Ugg Boots.....$500 set of fancy Slickers....still fucking pissed about that....went missing between unloading the boat and loading my truck...by the time I realized it was not in my truck....it was gone....huge bag...not like it just fell behind a bush some where.....I only have 2 pair of underwear left...period.....lol 1/20 Update!! Holy Shit! Someone turned in my bag to Black Water! Tracey just called and I am getting it shipped up here. I had almost lost faith. I wonder if I can return all the new underwear I just bought?