This was the first year that we decided we would opt out of the White Marlin Open and go for a smaller tournament in our back yard. We chose to fish the JB Tackle Tri-State Tournament. This was set to be a pretty awesome tournament as we happened to be the smallest boat fishing in a fleet of over 60 boats. Everyone that was involved in the tournament was very welcoming. Kyle over at JB Tackle set up a tournament in a time where most tournaments were either called off or postponed due to the COVID-19 situation.
We departed our home port of Bridgeport, CT on Sunday morning and made the trek to Block Island. The ride was smooth as glass the whole way. Upon getting to Block Island we elected to stay at Paynes Dock. The weather was good and that afternoon we headed over to the captains meeting. Social Distancing standards were upheld by all tournament directors and teams! It was amazing to see teams from around the country were up here ready to shoot out for a stake at some hard cash. Rules were set and off to party we went.
The weather reports were definitely not looking to friendly to the smaller boats, let alone the larger ones. Monday through Wednesday was blowing and the seas were not looking to friendly. We decided that we would run Wednesday into Thursday! There were a lot of reports from the previous week that the fishing was red hot at Atlantis and not so much information about the tails. Fortunately, being a big game tackle manufacturer we generally have a set of boats fishing every canyon up and down the east coast so we were getting live intel on the daily.
Tuesday night we were all sitting around dinner and began discussing our game plan. Carlos and I decided we were going to be running west whilst the entire fleet was running east. We didn't share the information with our crew as we figured they'd find out in the am. From the prior days of research we established a few patterns. First and foremost, one of our customers ran out on Monday into Tuesday and gave us a detailed report of Atlantis, they came back with fish but nothing notable. Second, we knew the entire fleet was going to be rolling east to the Atlantis Canyons. We knew that with over 50-60 boats putting pressure out there the smallest boat in the fleet would have a hard time competing. Third, I coordinated with another tackle manufacturer and we decided that we would be running East based off all the details discussed.
Wednesday morning we got up at 4:30 am....The marina was crawling with crew preparing to depart the dock. The air was thick with the smell of diesel engines running. The sound was a symphony of Detroits, Cats, Cummins and Manns in the night. We loaded up and pulled away from the dock! With the radar lite up and the traffic of sport-fishing boats heading up the channel to the harbors mouth we awaited the time to run out. As the call came over the radio we all wished one another luck and called out our vessel names. The Lobito's Cats came to life as the throttles were pegged down. With all her weight under her she took a bit to get up but when she did there was no stopping her.
FIGURE 1: Running out of Block Island.
We came out of the harbor the sounds roared and the boats rocketed forward. We were all running along the west side of block shooting straight South. As we broke the islands most southern point most teams turned Southeast while we headed Southwest. We were headed to the Tails, at least thats what most people thought. While running in some snot we were making some great timing, until we were not. The smell of diesel fuel pierced the air, we knew we had a problem! We were approximately 65 miles out when our bladder in the tower started to leak. Apparently some how the filling cap knocked loose, well what better time to fill up offshore! We began the task of filling up and removing the empty bladder from the tower.
Once topped off we ran out to the tails to find our first high-flyers. When Chet our crew spotted the first we dropped the riggers and deployed our spread. Down with the dredge and out with the spread. We had a nice mix of daisy chains, teasers, bars, lures and Ballyhoo. Within minutes we ran into a school of longfin albacore. As soon as the fun started we had a massive storm front roll through. We put the due south as lightning, rain and wind kicked up all around us. It was honestly the most insane hour we have ever experienced. As the storm passed we picked up the lines and headed further south. We were looking for something specific and we found it. The color of the water, the temperature and life. We were marking fish everywhere!
Once again we deployed the lines! We began to work the west wall of the Block canyon and thats when all hell broke loose! The right long rigger went off! The rod was a 50-80 class rod with an Accurate BX2-30 two speed reel! Within seconds the fish had peeled the entire mono top shot off and the braid followed. The rod was bent so much so that the braid was running on the Eva foregrip of the rod. We began to clear lines as Jeff took ahold of the rod and dictated instructions to the captain. Carlos was at the helm! He looped around the fish in an attempt to gain line and passed the helm to Shreck, a fantastic fishermen and captain. There was instant organized chaos! At first, you would think we were going to kill each other, but once we cleared the lines and cleaned up the cockpit, the fight was on. Little did we know it would be an epic one.
It is important to note that this fish hit a large daisy chain (Lobo Lures #221 green and gold jet head) in 76.2 degree water in a depth of 300 fathoms. This fish dumped almost an entire spool of line in its initial run. Carlos's quick instinct was to prepare a 80 and attached the swivel to the rod, he explained that we were going to need to prepare to toss the 30 overboard and fight the fish from the 80. As we pushed the drag to its max setting, we watched the sheer power of this fish, it was still peeling line. Only once before had we dumped a rod, but that was nothing like this. While backing down on the fish we were able to start gaining on the fish. Jeff slowly pumped the rod in order to turn the fish. We were sure this was a Bigeye at this point, and a big one at it. After about an hour and forty five minutes into the fight we finally were able to get the top shot back on the reel. But like all Bigeye we were sure it had another run or two in it!