By Capt. Dave Lear
June 8, 2012, Biloxi, Mississippi
With hundreds of square miles of water and big numbers of billfish reported leading up to this year’s Classic, choosing exactly where to fish entails careful study and local knowledge. A little help from Lady Luck doesn’t hurt, either.
“We’ve been looking at the satellite imagery trying to decide a game plan,” Art Favre, owner of A Work of Art, told me before the fleet left the Point Cadet Marina early Thursday afternoon. “We’ve gotten a lot of reports of good fish in different locales around the central Gulf. Now it’s just a matter of dialing it in. Even with all this information, however, it’s still an educated guess. If you go a long way in the wrong direction, you almost take yourself out of the game.” Favre keeps his Viking in Orange Beach, Alabama, and is a veteran of the Gulf tournament circuit.
Capt. John Tate, skipper of the Destin, Florida-based Bella Maria, is another big fan of satellite imagery to help pinpoint rips, eddies and other fish-concentrating features. “Anything in the arsenal, we’ll use it,” he said with a laugh. “We’re counting on a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill. That combo goes a long way.” Tate said his crew would finalize a game plan on the way out to blue water.
“Hopefully we won’t be fishing in traffic,” he added. “We like to find our own piece of real estate, and it’ll be somewhere south, that’s all I know right now.”
Bella Maria fun-fished last weekend and found marlin that would definitely be scale-worthy, including one over 400 pounds and another behemoth in the 700-pound range. That’s why they’ll be trolling with the heavier tackle.
“I normally run a six-rod spread,” mate David Perry explains. “Sometimes I’ll add a bird down the middle with a plastic ballyhoo or mullet. I run lures on the outriggers and two naked ballyhoo on the flats. And we always have two bird-type teasers out, too.”
Perry’s favorite lure is a Black Bart #1656 Flat Nose swimmer. He wouldn’t divulge the exact color pattern. He did share his favorite bait rig, though--a naked ballyhoo rigged with a circle hook.
“If you rig it right, they swim just like a live bait. They don’t roll, don’t spin, they just swim along like the real thing. It’s very effective.”
Dead bait, live bait, lures, close-in or 80 miles offshore, one thing is certain. With 60 skilled teams out there competing, the odds are a lock one of these game plans will work. Especially when the boat following that plan is in the right spot at just the right time.