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Remembering a record-setting day of fishing

By Staff | Sep 5, 2019

LAHAINA – This was my first 5-to-1 line class ratio, light-tackle IGFA record from 1997.

With all the marlin that were coming to the dock on a daily basis, I couldn’t stand not getting out there myself. Capt. Marty Sands, owner of the 31-foot Bertram ABSOLUTE, knows I like to fish light tackle and set up a trip to try for an International Game Fishing Association 5-to-1 or 10-to-1 line class ratio record.

Marty, myself and Deckman Leo Vendiola left the harbor around 9:45 a.m. and headed to the K-Buoy located 5.5 miles southwest of the Palaoa Lighthouse, Lanai, in 319 fathoms of water. We got to the buoy at noon and began trolling two Moldcraft Softhead teasers on the outriggers using a technique called “flipping the switch.” This technique uses hookless teasers to draw the fish into the wake, and then the teasers are pulled in and the rigged bait is flipped to the fish, which switches its interest to the bait.

We worked the buoy for an hour without raising a fish. Next, we went to live baiting, catching the small ahi and aku that were around the buoy and walking them around the area. After two hours of live baiting, we went back to trolling the teasers. We had been working the area for about 45 minutes, and were about 100 yards west of the buoy, when Marty saw a marlin boil on the starboard short rigger teaser.

Marty shouted, “Short rigger, short rigger!” The next time the marlin came in on the teaser, it knocked the line out of the rigger clip and disappeared. I went to the rod and began to slowly crank in the teaser. The marlin came back up behind the teaser and began to bill-whack it as I continued to bring in the lure.

Leo ran over and grabbed the pre-rigged live opelu out of the bait well that was already clipped to the 20-pound line we were using on a PENN 30-T class reel. He tossed the bait toward the marlin as Marty slowed the boat. The marlin swam right by the opelu as it charged aggressively after the teaser, grabbing it in its mouth several times, as I brought it closer to the boat.

Leo brought the opelu back to the stern of the boat. As soon as I pulled the teaser out of the water, the marlin stopped for a few seconds at the starboard corner of the boat. It turned 180 degrees toward the bait and grabbed it. I moved to the right and pulled the rod out of the chair rod holder.

Leo quickly cranked in the long rigger teaser. Marty began to slowly idle-reverse after the marlin. The marlin was busy eating the opelu and probably didn’t even realize what was happening. There was a big belly of line in the water where Leo had pulled in the bait.

I waited until the marlin had eaten the bait and then took a couple of quick cranks on the reel to pick up some slack line. The line came tight. I struck the marlin three times, trying to set a solid hook with only seven pounds of drag to work with. Marty bumped the boat ahead slightly to help set the hook. That’s all it took.

The marlin took off. Marty reversed the boat after the fish as I held on to the rod and watched the spool. The marlin pulled off about 100 yards of line before exploding out of the water five minutes later. It crossed the stern porpoising out to the starboard side.

Marty kept after the marlin for the next 15 minutes as I retrieved as much line as I could when I could. The line finally ended up straight up and down behind the stern. The marlin pulled line steadily off the spool. I backed off the drag to halfway between the strike button and free-spool and held on for the next five minutes as I lost every yard I had gained.

Suddenly, the bend in the rod straightened as the marlin began to come up. There was a bird pile around the boat and the bait was starting to jump. The marlin was following the bait upward, and I was able to gain 100 yards of line in about two minutes.

I got the marlin to within 100 yards of leader before it stopped. It began to tug out line again, so I pushed up the drag to the strike button and was able to keep it from taking much more line. From then on, it was a slow pull on the rod as I worked the marlin in.

Ten minutes later, we spotted color. As the double line came up, Marty noticed a tangle in the line. Marty told Leo, “If it’s on the leader it’s not a big deal; but if it’s on the main line, we’re in trouble.” Leo looked up at Marty and said, “We’re in trouble”.

Marty began reversing the boat quickly after the marlin as I cranked in the line. The swivel popped out of the water, and Leo grabbed the leader. He called Marty down to gaff. Marty put one engine in forward and left the helm.

As Marty got to the back deck, there was whitewater flying all over the place as the marlin thrashed wildly around at leader. Leo held on to the wraps and pulled the fish up the port side of the boat. Marty reached out and stuck the fly-gaff to secure the fish.

As we looked down at the marlin, we noticed that the 6.0-closed hook was barely stuck in the upper left side of its mouth. The barb wasn’t even in. The main line was twisted up on the double line knot and around the swivel and had opened it up.

I would like to thank Capt. Marty Sands and Deckman Leo Vendiola for helping me attain a 5-to-1 line class ratio IGFA record with my 152.0-pound blue marlin using 20-pound test line. Thanks also to Capt. Kenny Takashima of Lahaina Fishing Supply for the use of his PENN 30 class rod and reel.