I have no idea what happened this month. Traditionally we have a great Cubera bite in September but everyone seemed to want to fish in August this year. I’m not sure why this is especially with a full moon coming up this weekend. The congregations of fish have done the bulk of their spawning ritual and now they are on the feed trying to recover their strength after their yearly ordeal. Oh well, it is what it is!
Jorge had already booked his second trip for this season. Devon was out of commission for this run, so I phoned up my buddy, “Uncle Al”, to come work the mate position. Al is Devon‘s uncle, which is where his nickname “Uncle Al” comes from. We met up at the usual time and Jorge arrived solo on this occasion. He brought along his own rod and reel, a nice bent butt with an International 70 loaded with 150# Power Pro. A bit of overkill but if he is more comfortable with his own gear, he is welcome to bring it.
We turned The BEAST out and made our way to grab a few quick Hardtails for backup bait. That happened with relative ease and in short order the Zuke 300’s were running for our Cricket patch. Although Uncle Al and I are, for lack of better terms, a senior crew, we managed to grab enough bugs in a reasonable time. Uncle Al may have a few years on Devon but he is still a bug snatching maniac. Since Jorge also brought along a custom jigging rod with 65# braid on a nice shiny Shimano Stella reel, we decided to give the “Grunt & Sweat” wreck a tryout.
We arrived at the G&S and made several drops but only had 1 or 2 bumps and lost a couple of the jig hooks. I made the decision to try another wreck but the same thing seemed to be the case at that area as well. OK! We headed south to Nastyville and made 1 or 2 drops with the jigs. There was nothing doing on the jigs that night. Darkness was still about 45 minutes away, but I told Al to go ahead and drop a cricket. The sonar was pretty much blank as we made several drifts but as the darkness settled in the screen became more active. Each pass showed more and more marks. Boom! Al yells that we have a bite but Jorge was not on his game and before he could get to the rod it came unglued. Another couple of passes and the bait gets crashed again. This time I cranked down on the fish and as Jorge got to the rod, the tipped popped up signaling another miss. We kept making passes sliding deeper and shallower and I decided to stay around the drift that produced the first 2 bites. The sonar screen was lit up like the “Jones’” neighborhood at Christmas. The next bite was so fast that the rod doubled over and snapped to attention so fast no one had a chance to react. Jorge was on station at the rod when the next bite came. Bite… let go… drop back… bite… let go… hold… a few tense seconds and Bada Bing! The line comes tight and the rod is bending toward the water when, you guessed it, once again the fish came unpinned. What the H? These must be smaller “buck” snapper because we lost two baits totally, one bait came up covered in fang punctures, and this last one was almost torn in half.
The searching for active fish was over. Adjusting the drifts was easy because, surprisingly, we had the whole area to ourselves that night. I made an adjustment that worked out perfectly and I had now honed in on the same drift line that had been producing the bites. A couple of short, uneventful drifts went by. I had them pegged and at this stage in the game there was no need to make long drifts. On the next drift I saw the active fish on the sonar and told Jorge to stand guard. Kaplooey! This was not a bite like we had been having. This was Big Mama! She bent the rod tip to the water and was stripping drag. That was a feat in itself because 2 drifts earlier I checked his drag and I couldn’t pull the 150# braid off the reel with my hands. OMG Bro! This fish may break our boat record of 76#’s. About 6 or 7 minutes into the fight and Jorge figures he has the fish off the bottom far enough so he backs off on the drag about ¼. After another 2 to 3 minutes and 2 more solid runs, the line goes limp. NO WAY! Yes way! She is gone! When we brought the terminal rig to the surface we did a quick inspection to find that Big Mama had straightened out our 4X strength hooks. She was obviously hooked up solid. This was the classical “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario on drag settings. If we wouldn’t have had the drag tight she would’ve taken us to the bottom and cut us off. Having the drag a bit too tight can cause other failures, as was our case. Loosening the drag after moving the fish well off the bottom was the correct thing to do but the damage was already done. All I can say is that this fish was a behemoth.
The BEAST fell so quiet that you could’ve heard a mouse peeing on cotton. Several minutes passed and then we discussed what happened in detail. We came to the conclusion that you can’t win ‘em all. We made several more drifts and Jorge began losing focus allowing his bait to drag on the bottom, hanging up 3 rigs and losing the lead. He was totally dejected at this point and was ready to call it a night. Hold on! The sonar is going quiet and the bite has slowed down but I had a good feeling. C’mon Jorge, one more drift. I don’t know why I had that feeling but I’m glad he said OK. About 1 minute into the last drift and the rod tip bumps. Jorge remains calm and the tip bumps again. Easy does it! The 3rd bump and the rod tip pulls down past the gunnels, and Jorge makes 5 or 6 hard cranks on the reel. Hooked up! This was our average respectable fish and Jorge took the battle over and won this fight.
Jorge thanked me for insisting on that last drift and we called it a night. We went 1 for 6 but we had action through most of the night. I’ve replayed that night over and over in my mind and came to some conclusions. There was nothing much I would’ve done differently to catch that big fish, but I have come up with some ideas to eliminate those missed hook ups.
The season will probably draw to an end after this weekend’s moon phase. With no plans for this week, Devon and I will be putting up the gear next week and turning our focus towards live baiting for Dolphin, Sails and Kings. That was apparently our Cubera 2012 Finale’. It’s all good! A fitting end with the big fish that got away. Keep looking over your shoulder, Big Mama, because we’re coming after you again next year!