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Mikkelsen/Excel 17 day report...Part 2

I have to appologize for this report coming out in drips and drabs but coming back to the real world sucks at least as far as time considerations are concerned.

For those who have been asking or calling me nasty names(Not disrespectfully) for potentially not including the fishing portion and methods that worked on the trip I will humbly oblige at some portion of the report.

Continuing on:

Another amazing aspect of the group is they are really more of a Long Range Family than just a charter group. In the last year and a half or so many of this family have experienced major losses of loved ones. This trip was dedicated to three individuals who passed away in that time frame. Ralph's Partner in Love and Life Joanne, Pat, one of my dearest friends and fishing companion, Lost his amazing wife of many decades whose name is also Joanne and David Choate, who could not be with us this year, who lost his beautiful son Natey. All three's photos of the deceased were part of a magnificent banner which was proudly displayed in the Main Salon with many a statement made on behalf of each. This was not some hokey paper banner but a real tribute to all who had major impact on this wonderful family. Again, just one more tribute to the time these charter masters take in putting this trip together. In addition, the family lost one more regular member while on this trip. Gerry King, a well respected Long Ranger could not make the trip due to an illness which ultimately took his life. Mark provided a short Eulogy and a moment of silent prayer was given.

I suppose I did not begin this report with the dedication to the loss of loved ones as this trip really is a celebration of life and joy. The fishing, as most each and everyone of these folks will tell you, is secondary. Even in memorializing the individuals there were tears both in the pain of the loss and the joy in the memory.

So moving on, The weather for the trip down was great, following seas, days getting warmer as we travelled south and with all the events going on the time flew by. Absolutely the fastest 4 days to the Bank I have ever experienced.

One of the days included the annual dart game. This is the real deal with a huge billboard size backdrop celebrating the charter and
a dart board towards the top. Everyone participates with prizes being handed out for the best scores. It became clear one did not have to be an Ale swigging, fish and chips eating, pub frequenter or professional dart thrower as clearly was seen by yours truely coming in a respectable third place. Picture throwing a total of 7 darts. 3 left handed, 3 right handed and 1 double value dart any way one chose. Now add in throwing said darts from the upper deck of a rocking and rolling boat while 24 other passengers and all the crew not driving made fun of how silly you looked when you screwed up or rooted you on when you did well. Even Nigel, our resident Englishman, could not conquer the board with the adverse conditions a proper English gentleman would never endure. As I may have noted previously the crew is part of this family and those who are not driving the boat participate in all the events.

Of course during the last two days of the ride gear was rigged. Now here we must remember this is a group whose long range years if totaled would equal to many, many centuries. 80 and 80 wide reels were everywhere. Older fiberglass rods were the norm. Most all of the passengers worked out of harnesses and it was readily apparent these rods were not designed for rail rodding.

To put a vicious rumor to rest, Ralph and many of the other long range veterans have NOT switched all their reels to Spectra. Only their Kite reels have the woven braid and all the other reels are Mono only. It turns out the only reason the Kite reels were switched was due to the weight of mono keeping the kites from flying when the wind was light. Thus the spectra was added, only on the kite reels, at the behest of the crew. Ahhh for some the good old days still include full spools of mono...... but for this fisherman the good old days are behind me and the better days include Spectra and Graphite.

With 4 days worth of celebrating, relaxing, gearing up, etc. we arive at Hurricane Bank. Thankfully the bank did not live up to its name as the weather was perfect. The water color was awesome, the current was great, we had no other boats we were completing with and the seas had only a slight wind ripple. What more could we ask for??
Well, I guess biting fish might be the answer. With perfect conditions the fish just were not cooperating. A smattering of Tuna, a decent Wahoo bite that would come and go, a night bite that never materialized, alas, my 200 gram Raiders and my PL68's could not find anything but sharks to inhale them at night. Bummer.

I think the answer for the Tuna lock jaw problem may have been solved when at night we moved into the shallows to make some flyers and hopefully some puffers. Imagine, if you will, tanks of flyers made in less than 40 minutes and better yet as many puffers as one could ask for. I have never seen a school of thousands of puffers just sitting off the corner of the transom who barely moved when we put a net into their midst. If we had wanted a thousand of those little suckers we could have had them in no time at all. I can only assume with this much bait in the water the tuna felt like they had just had a number 5, double double, at In and Out and were not in the mood to bite during the day. Since I don't speak tuna I can only surmise.

Interesting enough, the majority of the tuna bites we did get came with the addition of 2 - 4 ounces of lead attached either by rubber band or with a slider behind the swivel that many of the folks used as connections for leaders as the current was fairly strong. Many began the fishing with 135 to 200#
leaders but most dropped down to 100 - 130# at some point. And yes, some even dropped to 80 pound as the fish were picky. The kite fish were non existant for two days and I do not remember too many boils around the boat. Still, the days went fast and the laughs were plentiful.

As for the Wahoo, some on the boat liked the bombs and they worked well especially after some special modifications were made to the skirts. I saw some interesting alterations using colored pipe cleaner, additional multicolored skirt material, and other additions which seemed to be to the liking of the venerable Hoo. Add the pleasure of a wire leader and those throwing bombs were pretty happy with the results.

For us Raider folks the best colors seemed to have gold back grounds. The Pink, yellow, orange and red side stickers seemed to work the best. Some took off these side colors as they feel the stickers are cause for the Hoo's teeth to grab and thus not slide down onto the hook. I am not convinced but then again, contrary to popular notion, I both crank and swing on my raiders to set the hook.
As usual, the hoo caused a fair amount of lost jigs, cut baits, angler frustration, etc but that is the joy that is the Wahoo.

I did try out the Titanium wire material for bait and although I mostly throw Raiders I wanted to give it a shot. Perhaps I am missing someting as to the simple knot that is used but unless I used really light drag my 45 pound wire knots simply undid themselves. I will say they got bit very well but I also discovered the titanium is so smooth I could not get a crimp to hold them either. I look forward to some one showing me what I am doing wrong, if anything.

The most effective Trolling jigs on this trip are kind of hard to describe in that at one time they might have been orange and black or Tony the Tiger but the best bit jigs were ones that had most all of the paint removed from previously caught fish with some of the best being Marauders where the body was even broken. Again, I do not speak Wahoo so I cannot tell you why the same mangled and unpainted Marauders were getting bit most of the time perhaps they just swam better.

I will finish this portion of the report off with an interesting fact. The original April/May Long range trip on the Excel was attended by several members of this group in 1990. Ralph took over as the Charter Master in 1991. Thanks to a very dutiful fisherman by the name of Bobby Orth who brings a diary of sorts reflecting thoughts and facts from all the years this trip has run I discovered the original trip in 1990 cost $2580.00 ( or so) + an $80.00 Mexican permit for 32 anglers and lasted 16 days. 19 years later the trip, I can't remember the exact price and am too lazy to go find out, was around $4200.00 for 25 anglers and 17 days. Both trips were filled to their intended passenger limits.
I will not try and figure out what the exact increase in price is but it certainly is nowhere near the increase in cost compared to what any other vacation experience has seen. For those who still feel the owners are making a fortune from long range might reconsider their opinions. But, that is a conversation best left for someone elses thread. I just thought it was an interesting fact.

To be continued

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