Twenty months of planning, coordination and preparation went into a trip and it was finally upon us. Our Sato Legacy / 310RodWorks / OC Tuna Charter / United Composites 10 Day trip aboard the Royal Polaris (RP). The anticipation was high as we were all excited about the opportunity to fulfill our final obligation for our dear friend Brent Ikari of Sato Custom Rods who had passed away.
On this trip we had the usual suspects from our summer and spring trips. There were a few new faces, but mostly battle tested veterans that have shared the rail with us over the years. One amazing addition to the group was our friend Dave Marciano from the television show Wicked Tuna. Some know that Brent was Dave’s personal rod builder. In honor of Brent’s life and work, Dave made the commitment early on to join us on this trip. What most of us west coasters did not expect was that Dave is just as adept at fly lining a sardine to 100lb yellowfin tuna as he is at catching giant tuna on the east coast. He’s an amazingly proficient angler all the way around. We had an incredible group of friends that all worked together as a single unit, not a single fish was lost due to a tangle or burn off. Everyone was amazing, helping those who were new to the sport or were having a tough time getting bit. In the end, when you looked at the RP scoreboard, the load of fish were spread out evenly for every angler. Everyone was going home with a lot of fish.
Now to the fishing. We started off at the Rocks for some decent Wahoo fishing. It was not wide open,
but a steady pick. The hot lure was the full size DTX Minnow in Orange Mackerel. That lure was getting bit on every single troll rotation. We tried changing out the stock hooks, big mistake. If you’ve been thinking about this, leave them alone. We tried all sorts of hook options, none of them worked well since they were disrupting the how the lure swims and the fish won’t bite it.
Big Mikey O’Malley slayed some scissor lips on a 6X Jr in Green / Pink pattern straight tied to 50lb mono. Yes, he donated a few, but he also scored his bounty as well. The small sacrifices are well worth the $7 spent on those jigs. As for myself, I went 0 for 4 grinding a hot pink 6X Jr tied with a 130lb Fluoro leader. Those darn critters were biting my jig from behind, not from the side. All four times I came back with a 10-12” piece of finely clipped 130lb Seaguar Blue Label, all four top shots were originally 3’ long. With time running out at the rocks (due to other boats arriving) I had a change of plans. Decided to grab my jig stick with my Okuma Komodo and tied on a big Daiwa stick bait. One cast with a slow retrieve produced an incredible blow out on my stick bait, it was awesome to watch. A few minutes later, the wahoo was introduced to the RP welcoming committee. I fired out the stick bait a few more times without any bites, our time was up, and it was time to head up the line to the Island. It was work…hours of rail time invested in catching at least one wahoo for each and every angler on the boat. Some ended out time with 2, some three, but Big Mike finished the tour of Alijos with 6 Wahoo…far and away the top dog on the Wahoo.
With the Wahoo under our belt, with strings of the tasty cabrilla in the well and with just enough yellowtail to leave us wanting more, the decision was made to cut and run. We started a 30-hour slow chugging ride uphill to the famed Guadalupe Island. The “Lupe” was in our future and we were ready, or so we thought.
When we arrived at the Island, Capt. Roy Rose said it was going to be “breezy”. I thought to myself “breezy”?? I’ve never heard Roy use that term before. We arrived around 3am and woke up to a stiff 25-30 knots morning wind, only to increase to about 35-40 knots by mid-afternoon. The fish were biting though and all of sudden we didn’t care about the wind any more. We had a steady pick on the 60-80lb stock class, with a few stand out 100+ pound fish.
One lucky or shall I say un-lucky angler was Brent’s brother Victor. We say lucky as he hooked two of the biggest most angry fish of the trip. We say unlucky because of the way the battle with both of those giants finished for Vic.
On the first day of our stay at the Lupe, Vic hooked what was likely to be one of the two largest tuna hooked at Guadalupe Island during the 2018 season. It was a tough bite so, like so many, he stepped his gear down to get the bite. He pinned a sardine on a 5/0 circle hook on 60lb line on a United Composites US80 Predator that he had won in our raffle. The fight started like all the others. It was excitement…a lot of moving up and down the rail. The fish moved up and back. The third or fourth time he was done. The clock had just passed the one- hour mark and he wasn’t even started back to the boat. With physical exhaustion setting in, he gladly handed his brother from another mother, Darin from 310Rodworks the rod and the arm/fin wrestling match ensued. Darin knows the gear. He knew that the rod was overwhelmed. It wasn’t designed for this kind of pressure and so he took the rod out of the equation and reeled straight to the fish and pulled straight against it. With 200yds or more back on the spool, I was given a shot to pull on this crazy fish. I quickly went to work. This was a big fish. We went back and forth across the stern. The rail was my friend and with finesse, I added to the gains against this behemoth. When I was done, Darin took the rod back and spent a short stretch battling this tuna until Doug McConnaughy, a deckhand on the boat and a licensed captain to boot, took the rod and showed all of us what it meant to really pull hard on a fish.
Within 15 minutes the fish was nearing the pointed end of the gaff. One big circle then another. Every circle was drawing it nearer and at the same time raising everyone’s concern that something would be nearing failure. Another big circle at a distance too far…and then another. Finally, with a couple of luckily placed lifts, the fish was finally there…time to stick it. Just as Roy was ready to kill this fish, the amount of wind slowed nearly to a whisper. The kite line drooped directly where the gaff handle was coming across. In that split second, the gaff hook went the wrong way. The fish was spooked. The tail kicked a couple good shots and bingo bango….GONE! Heartbreak piled with expletives rang out and the battle was done. Without knowing it at the time, this was just one challenge that Vic faced over the course of this trip.
The next battle that Vic faced was the second day of the trip as Roy was beginning to hunt down the right spot of fish. Things had slowed to a dull roar. Fish were being hooked but if you know Roy, you know he wasn’t about to sit idly by waiting. He was going to find the group of fish that were ready to play. As Roy was charging on a line of fish that were up and chasing bait, he made the fateful call out to the group, “If you’ve got a popper or surface plug get it out there…they’re coming!” Little did Roy know, but Vic just had a new popping rod built for this trip. Strapped to a custom US80 tilefish was a Daiwa Saltist 6500 spooled up with 80lb braid with a short 100lb leader tied to it. The popper flew out off the starboard stern corner. With a huge splash it hit the water. Just as it did, Roy threw the throttles forward and the boat took off! Line was flying off the spool! As the bail was tripped and the line came tight, the phenomenon of line stripping off the reel was met with a quizzical face. As Roy pulled the throttles back and the boat out of gear, Vic looked at the rod…looked at the reel…looked at the line and with all of that input into his brain, he still couldn’t really tell what was going on. The rod was bent…but not really. The line was tight but no longer stripping off the spool. Pump after pump the line made it back on to the spool. Slowly but surely, he was making headway. With all eyes on him, Vic heard from the peanut gallery, “Looks like you got a Mackerel there!” A few more minutes pass and low and behold…the line starts ripping off the spool and the real fight was on. After another long fight, with adrenalin masking the fatigue, Darin asked Vic if he needed a hand. Darin grabbed the rod as Vic’s hands began to shake. As Vic made his way inside to get some fluids into his system, Darin went to work to move the fish within range to bring it aboard. Pump by pump. Crank by crank. The gaff slid in. The celebration began. A 100lb tuna found its way aboard the Royal Polaris for the brother of the man we were paying homage to on this trip.
The trip was one for the history books. Those 60 to 100lb fish would be the trend for the remainder of our stay. That is until we approached the last 3 hours of trip. Right around 3:30pm, the other Roy was scrapping it out on the bow with a big one on 60lb gear…after an hour or so, the fish was welcomed aboard. It taped out at 130lbs. About 30 minutes later, Racecar drops a 155 pound tuna on the deck, a few minutes later another 150 pound tuna hits the deck, then a 175 arrives, now it’s close to sun down and the bite continues to escalate at a rapid pace. Watching all of these big ones coming over the rail had me thinking……should I soak one more bait before we need to leave? Heck yeah. I grabbed my 60lb rig (big mistake) and pinned on a big mackerel, 5 seconds later its bit. One hour later, the RP crew sinks the gaff in the final 2 fish before we call it a trip. The last two fish were a respectable 130lb and 125lbs. and capped off an amazing trip and final send off from our dear friend, Brent Ikari.
Everything on this trip was outstanding. The RP crew, food, fishing, laughter, humor, libations, and a bunch of talented, respectable fish killing passengers. I know we’ll all be talking about this trip for many more years to come. RP Livin’!