Angling record-chasers always bring Capt. Ahab to mind.
Tim Simpson has long sought a world record wahoo on light line, not a white whale like this one videotaped recently migrating past Queensland, Australia, where he edits BlueWater Magazine.
His quest ended successfully fishing Fiji waters with renowned marine photographer Bill Boyce. Out of Matava Resort, they were aboard Capt. Adrian Watt's Bite Me, which got bit big-time.
"This IGFA world record for wahoo on 4kg (8 pound) tackle has been a personal dream of mine for over 20 years," Simpson emailed. "I waited 15 of them to find the combination of a location with a prolific run of wahoo big enough to make the attempt realistically feasible together with a sympathetic captain and crew that would happily pursue a crazy goal like this."
Watt was the guy. Bite Me, his 31-foot Deep Vee flybridge boat, holds 35 Fiji national records. He didn't mind nasty weather associated during prime fishing season and the difficulty of hooking the toothy wahoo that roam in packs and rip apart tackle.
After Boyce landed the Fiji M-04 sailfish record on their first day of fishing in June, a school of wahoo chomped through lines to rescue the three hooked on their second day. After retying, another pack was located around noon when it attacked.
Deckhand Joeli Tuku hauled in the teaser as quickly as possible as wahoo after wahoo chomped at it.
"Just as the teaser clears the water, the last wahoo screams in and launches at the teaser in mid-air," Watt said. "For a second I thought the fish was going to clear the transom and land in the cockpit ... with us being connected to three wahoo on 4kg at the time, not exactly what you want flipping and snapping about the cockpit floor!"
One wahoo got off thanks to its friends, but two remained hooked and fled from the pack, giving the anglers hope they wouldn't be bitten off. Simpson and Boyce battled wahoo that headed in opposite directions and took nearly 500 yards of line. Watt could only move the boat backward ever so often to allow the anglers to reel in some line.
After about an hour, Simpson had his fish tired and near the boat. Watt believed they only had one shot at gaffing it, and the team performed perfectly. When the wahoo's head come over the covering board, Simpson knew it was possibly a world record.
"I have never seen a grin that big before!" Watt said. "Lots of high fives and cameras flashing."
Boyce added some excitement moments later when his reel imploded, but he nabbed the line off the rod tip and pulled in the remaining 100 feet by hand.
"The fish didn't know anything had gone wrong," Watt said. "Most people would have panicked or resigned themselves to losing the fish. Bill's angling skills made the difference."
Simpson's fish weighed 69.66 pounds and is the pending IGFA world record. The previous mark was 55 pounds.
"It's nice to get the first one (world record) under our belt," Watt said. "We are going after the M-03 wahoo next!"
Simpson is game. He had thought about the record for decades but only physically pursued it for the past several years.
"In reality, it took 4 years for the weather, the ocean currents and the opportunities to come together," he said. "Catching a world record gamefish is often a process of determining where and when there is an opportunity then pursuing it with dogged determination while paying meticulous attention to tackle selection, rigging and the strategies to overcome all the obstacles that inevitably pop up along the way.
"This catch was like that and the planning, the setbacks and the hope that went into the 4 years it took to finally succeed made it an immensely satisfying achievement. I am extremely grateful to Capt. Adrian Watt for his help and role in enabling my dream to be fulfilled. Now, we're already planning the next one!"
Simpson, who nearly topped the wahoo record on 6-pound line on their third day, said he'll be back to Matava next year.