Walker Baldwin of Hampstead, N.C., had high hopes for a big day of wahoo fishing as he and the crew aboard the Kool-Aid, a 31-foot Cape Horn owned and operated by Shane Smith of Wilmington, N.C., left Masonboro Inlet and headed for the Gulf Stream on Oct. 20. Despite a slow start, Walker found himself bowed up to the wahoo of his dreams — a 108- pounder that measured 73 inches long with a 33-inch girth.
“It was supposed to be one of the best days of the year for fishing, according to the solunar table,” Baldwin said, “but nothing was biting. It was completely dead all morning.”
Shaking off the discouragement, Baldwin, Smith, Clay Walker and Ross Carroll, pressed on. They continued trolling on the Gulf Stream break at 7 knots with a six-line spread — two outriggers that featured mini teasers, two short-riggers, a flat line, and a line on a No. 8 planer. Junior Ilanders were the skirts of choice with horse ballyhoo as the baits.
Just before 11 o’clock, they broke the ice. A wahoo around 50 pounds bit and soon graced the deck, but that was just a warmup. The main event began shortly thereafter when another rod bent over and a reel began giving up line.
“It hit the planer rod,” Baldwin said, “which had an 80-wide Penn International on it. It wheeled the line off pretty fast, so we knew it was a big fish. It took off on a 100- to 200-yard run at the get-go and wore itself out pretty quick.”
Walker fought the fish for another 15 to 20 minutes. After a couple more big runs, Walker led it within range, the planer was pulled up, and Smith grabbed the 130-pound monofilament leader and brought the fish within gaffing distance.
“Clay hit it with the first gaff,” Baldwin said. “The gaff was too small for the fish, and it came out. Shane held it pretty steady, and Clay got another gaff and hit again. Then Ross came in and gaffed it, and we had to pull it over with both gaffs.”
After a celebration, they squeezed the big fish in the fish box with only inches to spare and dropped the lines back in the water. They put the icing on the cake with a 70-pound wahoo before heading into the Bridge Tender Marina for an official weight on the largest fish.