My good buddy Luis asked me for a favor, he's a manufacturers rep and after seeing our pictures of his last trip with me, the president of Gamakatsu wanted to do a trip down to the Tortuga's. Well Luis has gone out of his way to get me free stuff from all the other companies he reps so what am I gonna say? Hey, maybe I'll end up with a fist full of hooks; at the price they charge nowadays it might not be a bad idea.
I ask Luis how many guys are coming and he says 3, the president and maybe two other guys that don't speak much english. It lets me know how much ice we will need because the more people that are on the boat, the more fish we can keep, thus needing more ice. If there's 3 of them and 2 of us, that lets us keep 15 groupers total and throw in some muttons, it makes it worth running down there for the day. Some people out there are happy with catch and release, I on the other hand believe that without my help, fish might overpopulate and I wouldn't want that to happen.
At 6:00am sharp, up pulls a minivan and out pours three, then four, then five and finally six little men. It reminded me of those little clown cars you see at the circus. They looked like they just walked out of a sushi bar. One by one they walked by me and bowed. I didn't even know if I had enough life jackets. They were so small that one life jacket would float two of them. I did a quick check and sure enough, I did. In total we would have 8 people on the boat. I hate fishing more than 5 as everyone gets in each others way but what was I going to do?
The night before we left the forecast was for 10-15 kts out of the east. NOAA has never been wrong on a forecast so I thought that it shouldn't be any big deal to make the run. Just for kicks I checked the weather as we were idling out the channel. NOAA had revised their forecast and so politely increased it to 15-20 kts for the morning but decreasing back to 10-15 in the afternoon so we were all in. There were storms to the south of Key West that were heading to the west but luckily I stayed in front of them so we didn't get soaked. We basically just surfed the waves down there.
When we arrived I picked up a rod with a jig on it and showed everyone how to jig. My words were basically useless as only two of them little ninjas' spoke enough english to even understand me. As expected, while they knew their stuff about hooks, they had no idea about fishing. I had 3 of them using jigs, and 2 of them using live pinfish while I drifted a jig and ballyhoo back. For some reason, my depth finder wasn't working which is like tying my hands behind my back.
It didn't take long and rods started to bend. You would think guys that manufactured circle hooks would know NOT to set the hook but that simply wasn't true. If it hadn't been for the fact that the fish were basically committing suicide, I think I would've pulled my hair out. Mr Yuki and Quasi Yakamoto were talking Japanese amongst themselves and I guess they were having a good time because every once in a while the whole group would start to laugh.
Like any Japanese tourist they took pictures of everything on their Sony camera's. I then started realizing just how the Japanese have affected me as a fisherman. The engines on the boat were Yamaha's (Japanese), the electronics were Furuno (Japanese), the reels were Daiwa (Japanese), the jigs were Spro(Japanese), the hooks were Gamakatsu (Japanese). The sabiki's were Hayabusa (Japanese) and even the braid on our rods was from Japan. Not to mention I drive a Toyota truck. The Japs are invading us without even dropping a bomb.
The president wanted to Ginsu one of the groupers and eat some sashimi. I politely told him that the Fed's are probably watching me via satellite as they consider me the Al Capone, John Gotti and Pablo Escobar all rolled into one when it comes to environmental criminals. They would have Seal Team 7 on me in no time so I told him he'd have to wait until we were on dry land. I don't think he understood my sarcasm.
Anyways, without having the use of a depth finder we basically just drifted. We wouldn't go 5 minutes without someone fighting a grouper or a mutton snapper.
When I think of Japanese, I think of them buying the giant bluefins for ridiculous prices but these guys were having the time of their lives catching fish that were under 15 lbs. They reeled like they were on crack. The president knew what he was doing and knew how to reel down and lift up but the others couldn't quite seem to get the hang of it. They would push their thumbs against the spool to try and stop them fish from running…..grrrr. They broke off a whole bunch. One of em even cranked the star drag down so hard that it hurt my fingers loosening it.
This continued for a couple of hours. The weather was getting rougher and I wanted to stop by a wreck and let them wear their arms out on an amberjack. One of them was hanging over the side of the boat emptying his Denny's Grand Slam breakfast in liquid form. I of course made fun of him in my best japanese accent. I called him a Geisha girl and his buddies all laughed at him. I was told he was the lure designer. He needs to design a barf bag.
It was about this time that Luis pulls out…… a frog. Yes, here I am 70 miles from Key West and I have a guy tying on a rubber frog. Thank God there were no witnesses or I'd be laughed out of Key West. I said to Luis "What are you going to do with that?" He replied, "I'm going to be the first guy to catch a grouper on a frog". I just rolled my eyes. I've seen some pretty stupid things but we were in 90' of water that was getting rougher by the minute. Luis cuts off the hook that he had been using with the live pinfish and ties on Godzilla's miniature amphibian cousin. The 6 oz. egg sinker showed the frog the way to the bottom. We were catching grouper on every rod, even the miniature sumo wrestler was catching them. Luis says "Hammer, you never know" and wham, his rod bends over. The entire boat of Nagasaki survivors started laughing. Luis reeled up a red grouper and of course, out came all the camera's.
Don't be surprised if you see an infomercial in the future. First it was the Helicopter Lure, then the Banjo minnow, now, the saltwater Super Frog! All I can say is "Fish are flat out stupid".
It was around noon and we had caught about 80 groupers. Being this shallow they swim back down no problem so we didn't even have to vent them. We kept 24 of the largest ones along with 10 muttons. Since it was getting rough I decided that I would let them pull on an AJ, so I motored over to a wreck and just zero'd the GPS out and dropped a pinny and a jig. The pinny got eaten by an AJ and as quick as that happened a bull shark ate the AJ. The sharks that hang out on this wreck are huge and I really didn't want to tangle with it. Luckily, the shark broke off so we returned to the wreck and dropped again. Luis again hooks up and in short order one of the little fellas caught his first AJ. I hooked up on a jig and gave it to one of the guys but he lost the fish. It was getting rougher and to add to the fun, we had a storm rolling in on us. I dropped a jig with a pinny on it and it stopped 20' below the surface. I came tight on it and it screamed off in protest. I handed the rod to Hop Sing (I have no idea his real name because I couldn't pronounce any of their names anyways). The fish went screaming and did everything he could to dislodge the hook. I was barking orders like a drill sergeant as I always do and the guy couldn't understand anything. So now I'm basically playing sharades with the guy. Motioning him to go to the bow, lean out away from the bow with the rod, reel down, lift up. This fish really didn't want to be caught. It tried going under the boat and then it tried to swim into the props. You've heard of a chinese fire drill, well this was a Japanese fire drill. The angler would follow the fish around the boat and the remaining 5 japs would run to the opposite side to try and stay out of his way. Luckily for me Luis was at the helm and got to listen to me bark orders at him too. He's cuban but at least he knows english. While the fish neared, there were 6 little men with their squinted eyes opened wide. They're yelling in Japanese words of praise to their buddy. At this point it was raining down on us pretty good. Finally, the fish makes the mistake of getting just a little too close to the boat and he got to meet an American made GAFF. The fish was a big kingfish.
If you ever watch those silly fishing shows you'll notice that they always catch the largest fish last (whether they do or not). Out come the camera's. They must've taken 100 pics of that thing. Each of them wanted to hold it. (I have no doubt that back in Tokyo, they'd be telling the rik shaw driver that they were the one that caught it). I was worried about one of them getting bit so I showed them the correct way to hold the fish without having to worry about his chompers.
My original plan was to catch the AJ's and then go to yet another wreck and have them pull on some big jewfish. I was going to let them fight them without the aid of a fighting belt…. my way of getting back at them for Pearl Harbor. ( lol ) Anyways, I had to abort that idea because it was now blowing 20 out of the east and we had to head back. We would be taking it square on the chin. On the way down, two of them sat up front. On the way back, they'd all be stuffed in the back of the boat trying to avoid the beating. Anyone who has traveled through Rebecca Channel knows her reputation and she lived up to it once again. To make matters even worse, the GPS went out so I had to make the 40 mile run back to the Marquesas by compass alone. (It helps that you basically run due east and you'll hit the island.)
Whoever rigged the Contender mounted the engines too high so whenever I'd bury the trim tabs the outside engines would cavitate thus making it virtually impossible to hold the bow down. Every time we'd land I'd hear the Japs behind me spit up a rice ball. Basically, it sucked all the way back to the Marquesas. From there, I could run protected water all the way back to the marina so I bumped it up to 50 mph.
When we arrived at the marina we looked like wet cats. I tied the boat up and walked over to a hose and immediately washed my head off. I can't stand having dried salt on me.
We unloaded the fish and once again, out came the camera's. I think this was the most fish they'd seen since they helped kill those dolphin in that cove on National Geographic channel. They were happy and once again bowed, they then entered their minivan and left. They had to catch a flight for Singapore early the next morning.
Till Next Time
Last edited by Reef Bandit; 07-18-2012 at 05:12 PM.
Reason: Attached signature photo
In answer to your question "Did you score any loot?". Lets put it this way, I won't be needing any Gamakatsu hooks or Spro products for at least a couple of years. Through the years, I've fished with a bunch of manufacturers of fishing products and can honestly say that I've been blessed with the things that I have received. If there's one bit of advice I can give any guide/person that is put in a position where their opinion is asked..TELL THEM THE TRUTH. For example, a certain manufacturer of fishing line gave me some line to try, this line was so hi tech that it didn't have a name, just a number on the spool. The stuff was so resistant to chaffing that it seemed indestructable. After using it for a couple of trips I sent it back with a report. In my report I stated "If you gave this to me for free for the rest of my life I wouldn't take the time to spool it on my rods". The line, while extremely durable to abrasion had absolutely no elasticity so after it was stretched 1 time, it became brittle. It also chalked up almost immediately. I figured that they would never want to hear from me again because I basically popped their balloon. Shortly there after, I received a phone call from their No.2 guy to discuss the issue. To make a long story short, they actually appreciated the constructive criticism as the other guides they gave the line to didn't want to ruin their "free" products program so they just told them what they wanted to hear. The company completely dropped that line of mono's as it would have been disastrous for them to spend millions on an advertising campaign only to get egg in their face.
I have always called it like I saw it. I use to be sponsored by Shimano. After destroying their TN30's time and time again and sending them back. They finally said "You're abusing our reels". The TN30 (Trinidad) is a nice reel but it flat out should not be rated for 30 lb. I wore the gears right out of the things and burnt up the bearings. They had the audacity to tell me that they were going to charge me to repair them. These reels were less than 6 months old. I told them to take their repair bill and ....... Needless to say, they don't send me Christmas cards. Just because you get something for free doesn't always mean that it's a good deal. If it's junk, they can keep it. I won't lie to people to help them sell product. Long before the general public sees product, it is given to certain people to try. Due to where I'm fishing it doesn't take me long to see if things are good or not. I've had issues with many manufacturers products. A friend of mine that I wrote about a couple of months ago brought some hooks he bought in bulk. The tips of the circle hooks were so soft that you could only use them one time..... GARBAGE.
In answer to your question, Do I work for Gamakatsu? No. I'm not on their payroll and I'm not even on their pro staff. I had other types of hooks on the boat as well. I did this trip strictly as a favor to my friend Luis. He's their rep and does a good job for them.
Last edited by Reef Bandit; 07-18-2012 at 06:31 PM.
Reason: added info