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How to Fish for Wahoo

Speed and depth are strategies when pursuing wahoo.

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Spooling a reel
Spool 100-pound braid under pressure over a base of monofilament backing. George Poveromo

Surely, they’ll devour live baits drifted or trolled slowly, along with a variety of lures and baits pulled between 6 and 10 knots. In fact, I caught my two largest wahoo—143.3 and 113.2 pounds—on lures towed around 10 knots.

However, for running up numbers, wahoo will react far more aggressively to lures pulled between 10 and 15 knots, where their competitiveness often supersedes hunger. They’re also partial to subsurface over skipping baits.

Curved Butts and Big Reels 

Bent-butt trolling rods keep fishing lines more parallel with the ocean surface versus traditional upright ones. The dramatic reduction in the fishing line’s angle of entry enables lures to track more efficiently and maintain depth, particularly at faster speeds. Furthermore, line wear is minimized around the lead rod guide, a big consideration with heavy weights, lures and aggressive trolling speeds. 

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Large reels with exceptional drags withstand the rigors of high-speed trolling, though a wahoo isn’t capable of dumping anywhere near 1,000 yards of heavy braid. Suitable reels should be more about durability, dialing in lure presentations and muscling in fish.

Not Your Grandfather’s Gear

Harry Vernon III is a honed wahoo angler and proprietor of Captain Harry’s Fishing Supply in Miami. Vernon (and myself, admittedly) dates back to pulling cumbersome stainless and Monel wire outfits for wahoo. However, these setups were—and continue to be—a ringing dinner bell for wahoo; old-timers believe the humming from the wire attracts fish. What’s more, these outfits double for grouper trolling and even deep-dropping.

According to Vernon, over 95 percent of the wahoo outfits he sets up carry braided line. Why?  

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“Many in the new generation of offshore anglers are clueless as to the benefits of wire line and how to fish it. Period. They want simplicity and outfits that are easier to handle; something less complicated but that still catches fish. Plus, I truly believe they think those big reels look cool sporting various colors of braid.”

Fishing team holding up wahoo
Tuned tactics and a flexible strategy are the keys to racking up numbers on wahoo. George Poveromo

Monte Carlo Vs. Corvette? 

Sleek, responsive, lightweight and easy to handle, wahoo outfits with braided line have indeed taken over, especially among monster-wahoo seekers throughout the far eastern reaches of the Bahamas. 

“Without a doubt, these setups catch fish, and they’re much easier to handle, especially with doubles and triples on,” Vernon says. “The technical advantage is that braid cuts through the water so easily. That’s a biggie. You can also step up the strength of line without drastically increasing diameter. And like wire, there’s no stretch; hookups should be solid.

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“I prefer 100-pound braid. It slices through the water with ease, holds up to wear better than a lighter line, and you can spool a ton of it onto a reel. As a tackle-shop owner, I love that last part!”

However, Vernon did score one more point for the granddads: “Do realize that these braid setups are exclusively for wahoo trolling? Unlike wire lines, they’re not the greatest for grouper trolling; I can’t begin to tell you how many outfits I respool from customers trolling for grouper with them. The braid is frayed and beat up from being dragged across the reefs.”

Simple, Efficient Trolling Tips

Ease of trolling comes with a braid outfit, and for the grandfathers out there, they pair well with wire-line outfits if you decide to use both setups. 

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“Use a 32-ounce trolling sinker on the flat lines, regardless of braid or wire,” Vernon says. “On these, I like larger, lighter-style lures between 12 and 15 inches. I don’t like heavy lures; wahoo tend to shake them free. 

“Position these about 100 feet back. The next pair of rods should be fished about 200, maybe 300 feet back at most, towing 24-ounce weights and smaller lures, like Ilanders and rocket heads. I don’t believe it makes a difference if the lures track even with each other or are staggered.” 

Vernon’s rigging, strategy and tactics are straightforward.

Tie a short Bimini twist in the braid, then tie that double line to a 300-pound-test snap swivel. Add the trolling sinker and 30 to 50 feet of 300- to 400-pound mono shock leader, followed by a snap swivel and the main leader and lure. 

For the main leader, 480-pound cable is the most popular, but some anglers scale down to 270-pound cable with smaller lures. 

Once the spread is in position, ramp up to between 10 and 15 knots, and focus on drop-offs, tide changes, wrecks and tight bottom contours all between 80- and 400-foot depths, at least off South Florida and throughout the Bahamas. Always hold to broad zigzag patterns—never turn sharply.

Endgames

Maintain a straight heading and trolling speed when a rod goes off. An autopilot is an excellent aid here. By maintaining speed, baits remain in play for other wahoo. 

Slow the boat after a minute or so, keeping that forward heading and enough momentum to keep tight to the fish. With doubles and triples, some fancy work may be required to keep them apart, like putting the heat on the fish closest to the boat or one nearing another fish, while pausing the reeling on that other fish. Once the threat is over, keep on cranking. 

“My favorite part is gaffing the wahoo,” Vernon says. “Reel the trolling sinker to the rod tip, hand-line the shock leader, and stick the fish!” 

Read Next: Pro Tactics for Wahoo

Rig for targeting wahoo
Modern Wahoo Rig Steve Sanford

Modern Wahoo Rig

Components: Penn 50 International; bent-butt rod rated for 50- to 80-pound line; 100-pound-test braid; 60- to 100-pound mono backing; electrical tape; 300-pound snap swivels.

1. Wrap several inches of electrical tape around the spool arbor. This provides bedding for the arbor knot to cinch tightly, preventing it from spinning under pressure. 

2. A Penn International 50 holds about 1,800 yards of 100-pound braid. Either fill the reel with the braided line, or start with a couple hundred feet of 60- to 100-pound mono, followed by 1,200 yards of 100-pound braid, joined to the backing with a uni-to-uni or loop-to-loop connection.

3. Fill the reel with 100-pound braid, wound on under pressure, and finish with a Bimini twist.

4. Tie the double line to a 300-pound swivel, then snap it to a 16- to 32-ounce trolling sinker. Crimp or snap 30 to 50 feet of 300- to 400-pound mono shock leader to the other end of the sinker. Add a snap swivel to attach the main leader and lure. 

5. For the main leader, 480-pound cable is most popular, but some anglers scale down to 270-pound cable with smaller lures. Single-strand wire with a haywire loop also works as a main leader and helps when rigging ballyhoo. 

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