The Cuda Bowl

The Cuda Bowl

It’s been a while since I’ve updated these pages, but as I mentioned I have been fishing a lot and have been producing the raw material to be featured here.

I’ll begin by mentioning a pair of great days that I had with John O’Hearn last Monday and Tuesday. While it could be argued that in the face of great permit conditions we were stupid to go in search of pons, we stuck by our plans and searched for them. In the course of two days we found enough fish to get three bites out of a couple dozen shots, catching a small fish and losing two larger ones to missed hook sets. I’d like to thank John for sticking with a low-probability gameplan, one which I would be shocked if we didn’t repeat more than a few times in the coming months.

After the two days with John, I started the 2014 Cuda Bowl fishing with Captain John Benvenuto. Our prefish day was solidly clouded over, and while this is ordinarily a bullet in the head of cuda fishing we were able to find a body of large cudas to keep us occupied as we sorted through our game plan for the coming tournament days. Of special mention was this giant set of teeth that would have been a joy to enter in a tournament scored on inches. 19 pounds and skinny as a rail, this fish would have surely been a great one to put on the board in the Cud Bowl. We estimated its length at 48 inches before we released it to swim again:

Since John B and I were fishing from a smaller than normal boat, we did not have the range that we ordinarily would. This meant that John had to work extra hard to find some nearby areas that held fish, and stay with them through a tide change. Day one brought us, in addition to a few major failures, a few successes–notably, this giant that sat squarely on the 46-inch mark on the ruler. We rounded out our scorecard with a 35 and a 33, and lost a few other giant fish to various incarnations of the bad luck and spectacular failures that characterize barracuda on fly. Here’s the 46:

Day two we were in a slight lead, barely in front of Captain Peter Heydon and Jim Knowles–great guys and fantastic anglers both. We began with losing a number of nice fish, eventually hooking the largest cuda I’ve had the pleasure of throwing a fly at. The fish was hunting on a bar, and when the fly landed 20 feet upcurrent and slightly past the fish I didn’t move it more than a meter before it was in the fish’s mouth. Immediately when it jumped we knew we were outgunned, and all we could do was clear the line and hope to survive the insanity. The fish ran 80 yards and dropped the hook, and we had trouble keeping our spirits high after our hearts fell through the floorboards.. Losing a big fsh always hurts, but there is a specific feeling of awful that accompanies the loss of a gaint in a tournament. Within two minutes, however, another par of fish appeared on the bar and I had two shots at them before one made the mistake we hoped for. In ten minutes, our spirits were buoyed by the capture and release of a 45 inch fish–a great start towards the scorecard full of gants we needed to maintain our lead.

We dropped another few bites from large fish, stuck in the Tardis Of Unfortunate Grabbing Heads (TOUGH). After the tide change we were covering water in the glare, and with an incredible amount of luck we were able to squeek out this 40.5 inch fish. Now 2/3 of the way to an over-40-average, all we needed to do was catch another fish to feel confident that we would maintain our lead:

Within minutes I hooked another 40+ from behind the boat, and while the hooks found a home in the sharp a knot found an equally comfortable place in the snake guides of my rod and broke the fish off. I had another bite from a small fish, and lost him as well. We simply needed a fish over the 24 inch minimum to round out our scorecard, but we couldn’t make it happen. It wasnt’ for lack of trying, and John worked his arms off looking for a single fish to play our game. We caught a fish under the 24 inch minimum, lost another large one, and before we knew it the clock had run out and we were headed back to the dock with a glaring doughnut in our scorecard.

As it turned out, the five fish we caught were enough to take a victory in the fly division. Peter and Jim had a similar experience trying to catch a third small fish, and had they we would have lost to them–our victory came by a small margin of only 18 inches. I’d like to mention here how great it is to compete against those guys, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Special thanks are due to John Benvenuto, who put forth a fantastic effort and set up a great three days of barracuda fishing. Next year, he and I will be at it again I am sure.

Next report, I’ll discuss the three days I had with Steve Huff and my good friend Jason Schratwieser, in pursuit of the six.



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Nathaniel Linville

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