To say Team Bad To The Bone had a good tournament season would be a huge understatement.
The success of any good tournament team starts with planning and discussions on where to fish as well as the tactics to be used. This team came together four years ago when it seemed I was always looking for a new crew for each tournament. While at the same time Stephen Seal and Anthony Warren had found their new passion – chasing albacore but they too were also struggling to put together a team for each of the Oregon Tuna Classic tournaments. Stephen had been to one of my tuna seminars and as luck would have it we ran into each other again while in Sitka Alaska fishing and the beginnings of a new friendship emerged which would later lead to more fishing trips and discussions of merging our teams and as they say “the rest is history”.
A few 2nd and 3rd place finishes along the way with a few Big Fish trophies to our credit but the 1st place bragging rights have eluded us by mere ounces on more than one occasion. Elusive no more as we left Ilwaco early Friday morning on BOOYAA. We were more intent than ever on securing that top spot. Our honey hole had been scouted our earlier in the week and was 35 miles southwest and waiting for us. About 30 miles out we came across half the Ilwaco charter fleet and most were dead in the water on live bait stops. We pulled the throttles back and got the gear ready to deploy but had to wait five very long minutes for the mandatory 7:30am lines in so as not to violate tournament rules. A little jumpy and excited to see all the boats dead in the water we couldn’t wait and at 7:31am the first lure went into the water.
Archer bar on the long rigger with a Zuker zucchini broomtail trailing then an Eat Me Lures Mexican flag inside on the short rigger and a pink & white Ballyhood Albacore Allstar on the flat line clip off the corner. The other side had a similar spread and down the middle was a new lure yet to be mentioned but very deadly on previous trips this season. I’ll talk more about it this winter during one of my seminars because you’re going to want one, for sure.
We picked off a few fish here and there while trying to convert the hookup into a live bait stop and were adding a couple fish to the box on every stop. We graded each fish as it came over the rail and after awhile determined we were not catching tournament grade fish and needed to move to a new location. Right here is where a good tournament team separates itself from the pack. You have to be willing to stop fishing while in the middle of a wide open live bait stop and move to a new location in hopes of bigger fish. Some teams get the bite wide open and if the fish are coming over the rail they’re happy but just catching fish doesn’t work on tournament day. Leaving fish to find fish just doesn’t seem right but that’s exactly what we did.
We turned the boat in the direction of our original intended location, just a few miles away, and went on the hunt for bigger fish. We’d put the lines and they were hungry and chomping still catching fish as we went but prepared to stop if the size of fish got better. Soon we were making circles on the honey hole barely getting a line in the water before zzzzzzzzzzz and we’d go into convert mode trying to get the troll stop converted into a wide open live bait bite. Someone would scatter a scoop of live bait over the water while others were getting mr squiggly hooked up and over the rail to entice a bite and within seconds a silver bullet would streak by taking the bait, “hooked up”. Those words are music to any angler and they rolled out like a choir singing amazing grace. We were in harmony with the fish gods. One rod over the other rod under and chasing our fish – we were doing the dance although sometimes it seemed like we were weaving a mess but we had it down. It was like a well oiled machine get’er done. Once in awhile we’d bust a fish off and you’d only have to reach into the salon for another rigged rod, bait it up and send it over the rail to hook up within seconds then go right back into the dance.
At 3:30 we shut down the fishing machine that is “Team Bad To The Bone” and turned the 53 foot Riviera towards our next destination, Garibaldi and the weigh in. We had a 48 mile run and didn’t want to waste this effort by missing the deadline.
We crossed the OTC demarcation line with 20 minutes to spare and pulled up to the fuel dock as we waited for other boats to offload their catch of the day. Putting 525 gallons of fuel onboard gave us plenty of time to pull 45 tuna out of the fish box carefully sorting and weighing the bigger ones. The fuel nozzle was slow and we were worn out. A few minutes later our five heaviest fish hit the scale at 124.70 pounds.
Tired and sore from reeling in 45 fish we washed the boat and checked our gear prepping it for the next day. Weddy and Megan represented us at the captains meeting while Anthony and I replaced a few top shots and hooks. Soon the gear was ready for the next day and we set down to a great flat iron steak dinner prepared by Anthony on the back deck. We discussed strategy for the next day and agreed, based on what others had experienced, we really needed to go back to the same place the next day.
Sleep came easy but morning arrived way too fast as we rolled out at 5:00am and once we were loaded up with live bait we pulled out of port.
I truly believe you have to have a very strong will to succeed since it seems we’ve had a few obstacles with each of the tournaments. As with any new boat with lots of systems they tend to have a few bugs to work out in the first year and we experienced an electrical issue with the heating system tripping a breaker so we did the next best thing – we improvised. We borrowed a hair dryer from Megan and now we had ourselves a new defroster for the first few miles. His name was Anthony.
The plan for day two was to run back to where we had been the day before which was easier said than done. Nothing like running straight into a sporty ocean with wind and swells coming out of the northwest and taking occasional spray over the top of the fly bridge 25 feet above the water.
Three hours later we arrived at the honey hole to find green murky water pushed in by the strong northwest swell and wind. Oh well, no one ever said tournament fishing was easy. We went on the hunt for cleaner water working west and a little north. That hunt didn’t take long as we got a report of a defined color break from green to blue only a few miles away and in twenty minutes we were hooked up and proceeded to put 20 fish on the deck in the first stop. We kept them going in spite of drifting back into the green water a few miles and were fortunate enough to pick up a 34.7 pound green water hog which would later win the Big Fish pot.
The bite eventually died and we quickly ran back up to where we originally hooked up. We barely had two rods in the water when we hooked up again and it was on all over again. We were back in our zone and the machine was running smooth. “Welcome to the dark side” never had a truer meaning. It wasn’t as stellar as some of our previous trips but we were making it happen. This time another 23 fish went into the box and the grade of fish seemed a little better than the day before.
Thoroughly worn out we felt confident as we turned the big boat for home and was looking forward to a smooth ride downhill to Garibaldi. Once the fish were offloaded and weighed we jumped on the task of cleaning up the boat before relaxing with a few cocktails on the back deck.
A mixture of 90’s country music and soft rock floated through the boat while Weddy fixed her well known meal of marinated Greek lamb chops, Greek salad and honey roasted corn.
Sunday the day started out with a mandatory polygraph given to all the top finishers for each day of competition. And in spite of being the guy that wrote the questions for the test you’d think I would breeze right though it – and I did but I still got nervous. Did we properly bleed all those fish..? I heard everyone got nervous on that one. When the action is fast and furious on the back deck it wouldn’t be hard to miss bleeding a fish.
We arrived at the tent anxious to hear the results and didn’t have to wait long before learning we had won the Friday competition then had to set through the auction before hearing what we were waiting for and was a little surprised by our efforts.
By the numbers here’s how it went…88 tuna caught for 2 days, 78 tuna donated to the food bank, 1st place Friday – 2ND place Saturday –winners of Saturdays Big Fish competition – winners of the Garibaldi Tournament Champions and 2012 OTC Tournament Series Champions winning the official invite to the IGFA Offshore World Championships in Costa Rica next spring. $3,700 in prize money all donated back to the food bank – $3,000 worth of Shimano Terez rods, Talica & Trinidad reels with line as Tournament Champions. Not sure what were going to do with those since were sponsored by DAIWA. All in all 5 separate trophies for 2 days of competition and add that to our 2 trophies from Ilwaco and the tally – 7 trophies for the 2012 OTC season. We went into this season tied with one other team for winning 5 trophies over the last 5 years but that has now changed a little.
We may have taken most of the trophies but the food bank was the real winners with over 16,000lbs of tuna donated this season.