Sportfishing yachts have long been synonymous with the Northern Gulf of Mexico billfish tournament scene. However, over the last few years large center consoles have become a much more familiar and expected sight. These center consoles have as much range, and a faster cruising speed, as just about any sportfishing yacht, which makes them appealing to the tournament crew with a desire to get there first and fish longer. Although fishing off a center console often requires a different approach, the desired result is the same for whatever the chosen fishing platform may be.
These captains and crews want to win the tournament. Tournament crews have developed and honed tried-and-true methods and techniques for catching and landing blue marlin from sportfish yachts for decades. But tournament fishing for blue marlin from center consoles is a newer concept. Consideration must be taken for how the center console crew plans to target marlin, how they plan to battle the fish, and ultimately how they plan on landing the fish.
In the Northern Gulf, most tournament crews fish live tuna baits kept alive with a tuna tube system. Almost every sportfish yacht fishing tournaments has an array of tubes across the transom. Naturally, the center consoles fishing these tournaments were not far behind and now most can be seen with tuna tubes either permanently affixed or temporarily mounted for the tournament. As with sportfish crews, some center console crews prefer to fish dead baits and/or lures. As dredges have become the standard for dead bait fishing for billfish, the innovation to translate that style of fishing to center consoles has followed. Center console crews can utilize tools such as the Tigress dredge boom coupled with an electric reel to fish dredges in much the same way sportfish crews fish dredges from the outrigger, ultimately leveling the dead bait playing field between the two vessels.
Fighting and landing blue marlin from an outboard-powered vessel has its own set of challenges. While the fishing styles remain relatively similar, the battle and tactics of landing a big angry blue marlin from a boat with multiple props at the stern is starkly different. Most crews elect to move the angler forward. Whether that means fighting the fish from a standup harness or having a fixed fighting chair forward, the purpose of positioning the angler forward is to prevent the fish from entangling itself in the props at the stern and either damaging the fish or causing the line to part. In addition, it is much easier to swing the bow around quickly on a large center console than it is to pivot the boat and swing the stern in either direction.
Capt. Shane Toole runs the 42 Freeman Necessity out of Orange Beach, Alabama. “I like to position the angler in a stand-up harness just forward of the console,” he says. “This gives me a line of sight on where the fish is and allows me to communicate with my angler while maneuvering the boat. When it comes time to land the fish, I like to stay in reverse and bring the fish along from the bow. This prevents the fish from getting in the props and gives the wireman plenty of room to control the fish.”
Some crews even go so far as to have a fighting chair mounted forward of the console for battling blue marlin. Anglers can typically fight a fish for longer periods of time from a fighting chair, and center console crews looking to level the playing field for their anglers have become increasingly innovative with their approach. Chris Bazor with Gecerander Marine out of Orange Beach, Alabama, has recently taken it a step further by mounting a fighting chair on the bow of a 46 Invincible cat. Bazor and crew attached the fighting chair using a large stainless steel backing plate with bushings used to prevent crushing the core of the fiberglass the chair is mounted on.
“We really like how the chair has performed so far and fighting fish from the chair has worked out well for the angler and the captain driving the boat,” Bazor says. He also mentions the use of wireless headsets to aid in communication between the captain, angler and wireman as extremely helpful when fighting fish from this setup. While tournament marlin fishing from a sportfish yacht was traditionally a much different approach than that of center console fishing, as technology and innovation continue to develop new products, topnotch crews apply these advances to their style of fishing. The disconnect between sportfish yacht fishing and center console fishing becomes narrower by the season. Both certainly have their advantages and pitfalls, but ultimately, boats don’t catch fish, people do!
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