The inaugural Capt. Roger Wahoo Challenge based out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., is in the books, and what a testament it was for the quality of wahoo fishing available during fall and winter off the Carolina coast.
Eligible fishing days were Nov. 23 through Dec. 31, 2018, with teams able to fish up to two days and weigh in four wahoo during that stretch.
The crew of Hammer Down out of Carolina Beach, N.C., led by Preston Davis, needed only one day to land their impressive aggregate of four wahoo weighing 288.45 pounds. Hammer Down weighed wahoo tipping the scales at 92.85, 74.45, 69.85 and 51.3 pounds to claim first place in the event.
“That’s massive,” said Capt. Brant McMullan, director of the event.
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McMullan said Hammer Down fished an area north of The Steeples, about 85 miles due east of Ocean Isle Beach, trolling ballyhoo. The crew caught the four monster wahoo by 11 a.m. on Dec. 26 and earned $10,875 for the victory.
Brad Wood and crew aboard Ratz Azz finished second with a four-wahoo aggregate of 248.4 pounds, with the fish ranging from 55.9 to 66.25 pounds. Ratz Azz earned $6,525.
Jeff Martini and crew aboard Dirty Martini out of Little River was third with a four-wahoo aggregate of 234.45 pounds, earning $4,350.
Quote Boat was just behind Dirty Martini in fourth place by less than a pound with a 233.50-pound aggregate.
Perhaps most impressive of all was that 10 entries out of the field of 58 boats weighed in aggregates of 200 pounds or more, an average of more than 50 pounds per fish.
The largest wahoo was a 97-pounder weighed in by Doug Illing and the crew of Salty Fin.
McMullan is not surprised at the number of large wahoo and eye-popping weights accumulated in the tournament.
“One of the cool things is this tournament brings to light the incredible fishery we have,” said McMullan. “It’s really a growing fishery. We’re either getting more wahoo or people are getting more effective fishing for them. I think it’s a combination of both.”
Wahoo tournaments have become very popular along the Southeast coast with events such as the NE Florida Wahoo Shootout out of Jacksonville, Fla., the South Carolina Wahoo Series and Martini’s Hook-A-Hoo Rodeo out of Little River becoming established.
The Bahamas are also renowned for its wahoo fishery and has several tournaments targeting the species
“You look at the wahoo tournaments in The Bahamas, that’s thought to be the hotbed,” said McMullan, “but it’s evident on the Southeast coast there is a population of world-class wahoo - they just live here. It’s all the same fish. They just fluctuate up and down the coast.”
McMullan, who says high-quality wahoo fishing is available off the Carolina coast from August through April, hopes his tournament will join the annual list of wahoo tournaments in the Southeast.
“We had 58 boats and I’m hoping now that we’ve got a year behind us, it will have a chance to grow,” said McMullan.
Capt. Roger Legacy Fund
The tournament was established in honor of Capt. Roger Gales, who passed away Oct. 18 at the age of 48.
Gales was McMullan’s brother-in-law and was a fixture at the OIFC. His loved wahoo fishing, thus the tournament was established in his honor and to help his surviving family financially.
The tournament raised $16,950 to be donated to the Capt. Roger Legacy Fund, benefitting his family.
“There’s a very specific purpose for this event,” said McMullan. “Their house payments are being directly drafted from this account.”
For more information on the tournament visit www.OIFC.com/wahoochallenge.com.