Nationals week is something I really look forward to every year. First, its pretty cool to be part of a sportfishing comp that is happening right around New Zealand and seeing what turns up. Second, it’s a chance to do eight days straight of something a little different on the fishing front and usually over that eight days something special just happens to pop up.
We always manage to pull together a good team of like minded people, making it a great week and heaps of fun. Good mate Anthony Honeybone has traveled up from Canterbury every year since we started fishing the comp five years ago, sometimes smashing the fish over himself, or just helping the rest of the team accomplish something special. Good mate Tony Carpenter manned the deck. Joining the three of us for the whole week was Wayne Henson, who always seems to attract some great fishing and we were keen to see him get his first marlin. Skirmantas the marlin magnet jumped on for the first three days and JP managed to sneak away from YeeHaa for a stint.
This year we decided to do the Whitianga Marlin Classic and Whitianga One Base which both coincide with the Nationals. Thursday night Tony and I stripped everything off the boat and did a repack and the next morning it was off to Whitianga for nine days straight gamefishing. Yeehaa!! Friday was a reccie day, with Andrew Woods jumping on for a game trip the day prior to the comps. The Hook was the logical place to start and we found it loaded with bait and we were surprised nothing popped up, we saw the Immigrant hook up on a livebait there, and we carried on into the Middle Ground towards the Pins, the 150m line was packed full of sauri, flyers and skippies. Something had to happen. Woodsy was a man possessed, he watched the lures hard all day, and was rewarded when a striped marlin all lit up charged in on the Lumo Sprocket (which Tony had switched over on the long rigger about 15 mins prior), and hammered it. The outrigger slammed and popped and the Tiagra started howling! Woodsy was ON. Some cool aerial antics around the boat, Woodsy smashed over his first marlin quick smart and Tony wired the fish and I popped the tag in. Cool! Woodsy had his first marlin ticked off the text went out to Ants and Wayne who had just left the airport on their way down - we’d found the marlin boys!
We all caught up at the Game Club where the briefing took place for the Marlin Classic. You could tell from the outset this club has it wired, a really well club and a cool event. There was a good turn out for the comp, iwhich is all prize money in two categories – biggest marlin and most tagged. There wad some serious money bet in the Calcutta with the total prize pool nearing $42k. Boats like Immigrant and Kawalani hot favourites having gone into it smashing plenty of marlin aready.
Ski met us the next morning bright and early and it was no surprises where we headed first, it was off to the Middle Ground on the 150m mark and at lines in we were in the zone where we got the fish the day prior. The boys were amped and the bait was reading well on the Furuno Navnet.
The bait got better and better out to the 180m mark and 2 hours into the comp the Bonze Trojan in Spirit colours got smashed…. Hooked up! F### the gear was cleared in a flash, Wayne was on strike and with some shaky legs and adrenaline running went about smashing over his first marlin. He did quick smart, a fight of about 15 minutes and pretty soon Ants leadered the fish and Ski put the tag in and Tony grabbed the bill for some photos.Top of the list for the Nationals was to get Wayne a marlin and that was ticked off, love it when a plan comes together! It was great to see another fish swim away from the boat nice and healthy, and epsec cool to see Wayne achieve what he came for early on in the week.
We worked outside this area for the rest of the day, so much awesome sign but nothing more. The next day we worked a similar area, a few others boats like Each Way hooking up around us, Niggly getting a blue up north and Beefeater and Veloce getting some monster stripes 170k and 150k ish livebaiting inside us on the pins, but it wasn’t until late when we got hit, the Bonze Trojan on the rigger again got knocked down. I looped back around and BOOM a big stripey came up on the short corner and smashed the Azure Hayleys comet hard, and Ants was on. Epic hooked up! Looked like a solid hook up, the fish peeled heaps of line and Ants was harnessed up with heaps of weight on..we started to wind down on it and the weight came off, bugger! That is gamefishing! Just when you think you have it all sussed the marlin play hard to get again!
We worked the same area again the next day but it wasn’t until we got south of the pins that we got good bait reads and once we were in the bait JP from YeeHaa who was on for the day busted out the meanest marlin dance you’ve ever seen and not too soon afterwards….the Bonze Trojan again got smashed and we were on ….to something……there was not heaps of weight but Ski’s new custom games rods JP had built did a great job on the fish and JP smashed it over quick. It hadn’t jumped so we weren’t sure what it was until it came boatside all lit up MARLIN!!! There was a frantic rush for cameras and tag poles and then Ants went in for the leader, all good the fish was boatside but just as the tag was nearly in place the fish changed angle and spat the hook. Bugger! With four other boats tied with one tagged fish, we’d just missed another $4,000 fish!!
There ended the Marlin Classic and we went off to the prizegiving. It was good to catch up with some familiar faces and enjoy a few ales. We were pretty happy to come away with 2nd equal in the tag section and a nice cheque to help pay the big petrol bill for the week.
Next day it was the four of us. We soon wondered if we’d lost out marlin magnet as the next two days we saw nothing, and the radio itself turned real quiet for a few days. The first day of the One Base was a blow out and we had a cruisy day in Whitianga with brekkie at Velocity and a day on the couch reading fishing mags, the first time I’ve done that in ages – good for the soul!
The second day in the one base we headed north and got our beats in 25-35 of south west. Ants was pretty keen to smash a fish on 10k, so we had the Bonze Darter out on shotgun on 10kg. It got hit late in the day in a flurry of white water but never loaded up. There were little teeth marks on the lure that to me looked a lot like a decent tuna…….we went back to 24kg on the shottie the next day and it turned out to be a good thing…..
So the last day rolls around and hell the goal is just to catch some fish for dinner, get Ants on to some fish having come all the way up from Christchurch. From early in the day you could feel it was going to be a special one. The boys went to work on the wharf loading up on bait. Pretty soon kings were smashing around us, and then two big John Dory in succession nabbed baits off the wharf!! With 35 knots of south west forecast the question was posed several times, shall we just stay here, have a few beers catch some more John Dory and a big cook up and save ourselves from getting bashed around? Time to harden up….it was off to the pins to smash some kings on 10kg mono. Or not. Ten drops in a row we got dealt to. We got a few for the smoker but not the trophy we wanted and pretty soon it was time to make the call. Do we give the marlin one last blast or not? You bet we do!
The riggers got put out and we set a course wide in 25 – 35 knots of south west. I never really like strolling one line out and back but that was about all we had time for. We made a beeline for the general area we got the blue on 15 in the Nationals a couple of years ago, went past, came back and BOOM there was white water and a hole where the Bonze Darter once dishragged away, and the Tiagra was screaming.
The boys had the gear cleared once again quick smart. We were on the fish pretty quick, it went deep 60-80m down and stayed there tracking north. Myself and Tony both queried out loud….its not Tuna is it? Ants was pretty sure it was a blue and he’s seen truckloads of them in Vanuatu so we went with that theory and it did everything a blue would really and for the rest of the fight we really thought we were on a Blue.
Righto Ants I said, you’ve got one and a half hours to get the fish in mate or we’re going to miss the weigh cut off for the comp…! It was going to be tight. It was a hell of a fight, Ants is a great angler and he was hurting, he’d gain some line and then the fish would power off. Any groan from the motor in reverse and the fish would hear it and scream off again. The leader came into Tony’s hand at the 1 hour mark but there was so much weight and he quite rightly didn’t rush it and let go and the fish screamed off another 100m of line. We kept gamebase updated and with no marlin weighed in the comp to date they were very eager to know whether we were going to get the fish in time to make the weigh station cut off time.
We kept working the fish and just over two hours later a few more shots at the leader then Tony went hard on it with the boat hard in reverse to keep up and a fish circled round in our sight on the starboard side IT’S A F***** BIG TUNA! A couple more circles on the leader and the fish popped up boatside. Wayne, who has never gaffed a fish before sunk the flyer and I came off the wheel and slammed a fixed gaff around its anal fin a second or two later. Righto boys 3 2 1. nothing. Heavy. Lets try that again! We had it in the boat, it looked pretty big, a few man hugs and handshakes and yeehaas and no time for photos we put the hammers down into the now 20 knots of wind well offshore and hoped we would make it back in time. I called up Gamebase. “Yeah Gamebase this is Epic, its not a marlin sorry!” “Well what the hell is it then?” “It’s a bloody big big eye!!!!”
We tried to put a few guesstimates on the fishes weight – it was real solid and stocky. We all reckoned around the 80kg mark and called it at that. The Senator and yammie just ate the sea up on the way home, I thanked my stars we had a good ride to get home in and we got to the weigh station with ten minutes to spare.
The weigh station at Whitianga is something else. There is always a huge crowd of tourists and local watching the weigh in with a great commentary from the weigh master, and all live on the internet via Global Sports Fish. We were in the queue and finally had a chance to chill and let it all set in. The fish went up on the scales and let out a few hollers when the scales went over the 100kg mark, and settled on 106.9kg
It was time to celebrate. Its not every day you bring home a hundred kilo tuna. The boys had a few that night! I was super stoked for the team and espec for Ants. He’s knocked over some pretty cool fish before including a 266kg blue on speargun, this is another wicked accomplishment for a very fishy guy.
Smoking Sno kindly chilled the fish for the night for us, before we took it to Brett at Tairua Butchery the next morning to cut up and vac pack….the sashimi and seared tuna has just been amazing, even nicer than yellowfin.
We had an awesome night at the One Base prizegiving, again a great comp, pity there were not as many anglers as they hoped, but I’d go and do both comps again in a flash. We went home for a midnight dinner of the John Dory we’d caught that morning, coleslaw and Woodstock.
We ended up taking out the Tuna section of the Nationals and top boat in the One Base, albeit pulling it off at the last minute…..! Thanks heaps to all the crew Tony, Ants, Wayno, Ski, JP, it was a week I’ll remember for a long time, and not just for the fishing but some good times with top blokes. Gamefishing is a funny old game and you are always learning new stuff but at the end of the day you’ve just got to be out there doing it as you never know when a fish like this is going to come along.
I can’t wait to see what pops up next!