Giant Wahoo Smashes Tourney Record

The 101-pound wahoo is the biggest ever caught in the 74-year history of Florida’s Destin Fishing Rodeo.

101-pound wahoo at tournament weigh in
Derrick Dover is all smiles with his 101-pound at the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Destin Fishing Rodeo: Tanner O’Keefe, Photographer

A 101-pound wahoo boated by Derrick Dover on Oct. 7 at Florida’s Destin Fishing Rodeo is the biggest ever caught in the event’s 74-year history, topping the tournament record of 98.2 pounds that was set in 2010.

He hooked the fish while on a “lunch break” during an outing that had mostly focused on targeting grouper 30 miles southwest of Destin, a Gulf Coast city in the Florida Panhandle.

Grouper Fishing Turns Into Wahoo Fishing

wahoo, vermilion snappers, Mahi, blackfin tuna, scamp, bonito, king mackerel
Derrick, Tony and Andrew Dover with wahoo and (top) vermilion snapper, mahi, blackfin tuna, scamp and (bottom) bonito and king mackerel. Capt. Andrew Dover

“We had been trying to pick up some nice groupers all morning,” says Derrick, who was aboard the family boat Muscle Memory with his father, Tony Dover, and brother, Capt. Andrew Dover. “Around 11 or 12 we said, ‘Let’s take a little break and throw some wahoo lures out.’ We were trolling a ledge where it drops from 180 feet to 220, back and forth, when my dad hooked the first wahoo.”

About 30 minutes after Tony boated that fish, a 30-pounder, Derrick hooked up. He wasn’t sure exactly what he had at first, but he knew it was big.

“It hit real hard and just screamed out line,” Derrick recalls. “It made a good 45-second run before it slowed down. I started cranking line for a couple of minutes, and then it went slack and it just felt like he wasn’t there anymore. It had turned around and started heading toward us. I started cranking as fast as I could until I caught up with the line.”

The Dovers were trolling at about 7 knots with two Blue Water Candy JAG-A-HOO lures that Derrick bought specifically for wahoo, one running on the surface and one running 30 feet below the surface on a planer. When the fish made a second hard run, going deep and taking about 100 yards of line off the reel, he thought he might have tied into a big amberjack.

“Those 20- to 30-pound wahoos get their first run in and they’re beat, they come to the boat,” Derrick explains. “With the hard fight this fish was making, I was thinking amberjack, or maybe even shark. I could tell he was heavy.”

After finally turning the fish toward the boat again, Derrick fought it for about 25 minutes before getting it close enough to identify.

“The fish was under the boat and my brother was trying to maneuver to keep the line out of the motors,” Derrick recalls. “When I got a peek at him, I was like, ‘Oh, man, it’s a big one!’ Nerves kind of set in when I saw it was a wahoo.”

Andrew has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular disease that over time causes progressive weakness and the breakdown of muscles. “He’s a great captain,” Derrick says, “but helping out with a 100-pound fish is just something he can’t do.” So Andrew took the rod, and Derrick and his father gaffed the fish and wrangled it into the boat. That’s when the Dovers thought they might have a record.

Florida Tournament Record Wahoo

“We didn’t know what the tournament record was, but we were really excited about how big the fish was,” Derrick recounts. “When we got back within cell range, Andrew posted it to Facebook and had people guess the weight. The picture didn’t really do the fish justice, and people were guessing 50 to 75 pounds. I wanted to say 115.”

Rodeo rules require all fish except sharks to be gutted, washed and inspected before submitted to the weighmaster. The wahoo’s gutted weight was 101 pounds. It was a thrill to see the scale hit triple digits, Dustin says, but not much was made of it at the time. The three men were on their way home when they got a call from rodeo officials. “They said, ‘You guys set the record!’ It was amazing.”

The Florida state record wahoo weighed 139.56 pounds and was caught in 1960 by George Von Hoffman in Marathon. The IGFA world record is a 184-pound wahoo caught in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, by Sara Hayward in 2005.

As nice as the personal recognition is, Derrick says, the bigger thrill is the boost the wahoo gives Andrew in the race for the Captains Award. Determined by an accumulation of points earned for winning the daily and weekly big fish prizes and for overall leaderboard position, the Captains Award is given in five boat divisions. Andrew has won the private boat division three consecutive years, and Muscle Memory had a nice lead going into the final two weeks of the rodeo, which runs Oct. 1-31. Last year about 300 boats brought in more than 1,000 fish during the monthlong competition.

“Honestly, the biggest thing about the rodeo for us is family time, for me, my pops, and my brother,” Derrick says. “With muscular dystrophy, Andrew is not expected to live a long life, and we don’t know how long he can do what he’s doing right now. We have to help him in and out the boat, but once he’s out there, he does his thing. He’s good at holding us on spots. So that’s what we try to do, is savor these moments and create great memories.”

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