Just thinking about wahoo makes the fingers ache

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netMarch 11, 2014 

Cast and Blast columnist Collins Doughtie was a bloody -- but happy -- mess with his wahoo.

COURTESY OF COLLINS DOUGHTIE

My fingers are absolutely killing me. No, it's not because of arthritis; it's from twisting 4-foot lengths of stainless steel wire. Can you guess why? Here's a hint: What's purple and blue and can reach speeds close to 50 miles per hour?

Come on, think ...

Are you stumped? Then let me throw in another clue: What is Collins' favorite fish?

Every year I talk about this species on a regular basis, publish pictures of them and, when you bring them up in conversation, I get a glazed look in my eyes.

I'm talking about wahoo, folks, and this boy is itching more than a cur dog covered in fleas to get offshore in search of these fabulous fish.

After signing up to fish in the S.C. Wahoo Series Wahoo Tournament, I've had a heck of a time thinking about all the things I should be doing that have nothing whatsoever to do with fishing. My office looks more like a tackle shop than a place to do advertising and graphic design. There are lures of every shape and size hanging off the shelves, along with hooks that have been sharpened to a razor's edge and dozens of wire leaders that I have meticulously twisted so that, should a big wahoo hit, the chances of losing it (and possibly thousands of dollars) aren't due to poor workmanship.

To further illustrate just how far I go to catch these fish, over the past month or so I'll bet I have put in more than 50 hours researching online for the "ultimate" wahoo lure.

If you think meth addicts have a problem, I have ordered lures from as far away as Australia. That's just plain sick. Like a kid who never learns that a stovetop gets hot, I practice this same insanity every year.

Between my fishing partner, Don McCarthy, and myself, I would guess-timate we have more than 200 wahoo lures, and the saddest part of this tale is that there are probably three or four lures that always seem to catch all the wahoo. What's that Forrest Gump saying? "Stupid is as stupid does"? Though I don't quite understand that saying, it does seem to apply to my wahoo addiction and me.

If you are wondering what it's like on a typical wahoo excursion, I'll try and put it into words. Maybe then you won't think I am quite so crazy.

Preparation is everything. One little nick or kink in the line or leader and the fish is gone. With rows of razor sharp teeth, a wahoo has a mouth that hinges in such a way that it can open its yap into a big "V." What really sets them apart from other pelagic species is their speed, though.

I'll put it this way -- a wahoo can swim faster than a fat guy can wolf down a cheeseburger. They clock in at 50 mph, so you can only imagine the stress a wahoo puts on tackle when it hits your bait while it's going full tilt. From experience, the best thing you can do when a big 'hoo hits is to leave the rod in the rod holder and watch the line peel off in a blur. Then, and only then, do you pick up the rod.

If the savage hit-and-run tactic wasn't enough to clue you in that it's a wahoo, the head shaking will. It's like playing tug of war with a pit bull. I should mention that they can turn the tables on you in a heartbeat by doing a 360-degree turn and run straight toward the boat. Nobody but nobody can reel fast enough to keep up with them.

Damn, what a fish.

The bigger wahoo are primarily solitary hunters, but every once in a while, especially in late March and early April, you can run into what I like to call "wolf packs" of smaller wahoo. Two seasons ago, Don and I had such an encounter when five rods were all hit by wahoo at the same instant. When that happens it's almost laughable to think you'll land all of them. If my memory serves me correctly, we did boat three of the five, which isn't all that bad considering the mayhem of fish darting off in every direction and those onboard looking like they are practicing an ill-prepared fire drill.

I think I have described the fish pretty well, but I left out their beauty. The water where we are fishing is around 60 to 70 miles offshore, and it is not only gin clear, it's tinted a brilliant blue color. Like a marlin or mahi mahi, wahoo "light up" when they get excited and/or hooked. Normally a pale bluish color, a hooked wahoo that is lit up displays vibrant purple and neon blue vertical stripes that are indescribably beautiful.

So now do you understand why I can't wait to get out there?

Lastly, even if I don't catch the winning fish, at least my office will be back to normal. Wahoooo!

God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.

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