Goliath Grouper, Blacktips and Hammerheads – Makaira 80W Reels Show True Stopping Power

By Joshua Jorgensen

In the pursuit of big game fishing, one of the most important attributes that an angler should have with his gear is trust. If an angler begins to doubt their equipment, it is in that moment where things can go wrong. Big game fishing is not only a physical battle between angler and fish, but also a mental battle between an angler and their mind. It’s that fish of a lifetime that will always put your gear and all your knowledge to the test.

I have been in many situations where I’ve hooked a monster fish and lost it due to tackle failure. I am talking about a fish so big that it left you completely helpless. The most important tool needed to stop a big fish is your reel. I have used 80 wides with full drag and my fish never slows down. It is a nervous feeling knowing that your reel is maxed out! In this situation, the only way to have more power is by gripping the spool. From a boat, this situation might not be as common unless the battle is vertical. From the beach, this is a potential situation on any day of the week. Not being able to have the luxury of following your fish puts you in a predicament. If you are using the full power of a reel and your fish never slows down, it might be time for an upgrade.

Big Bull Boatside

Big bull sharks also tend to find their way on the end of Jorgensen’s well-placed offerings.

When Okuma released the specs of the Makaira I was instantly impressed. Looking at all the features and the quality of the materials used, I knew that this was going to be a well-built machine. After seeing reports from PEI of anglers catching 1000+lb. bluefin tuna using the Makaira 80WII, I just had to test one out. After catching several large sharks on the Makaira; including an 11’6″ hammerhead, I was fully convinced that this was one of the best leverdrags on the market.

The Makaira 80WII reel has some impressive features; including up to 70 lbs. of drag at Strike and up 100 lbs. at Full with complete freespool. Okuma simply gets it. Other manufacturers fail to realize the importance of having a powerful drag system. The Makaira also comes with a patented T-Bar handle. Before I started using Makaira’s, I would always purchase a T-Bar handle and replace the default manufacturer handle. This has always been an aftermarket purchase for me, but not anymore.

Makaira 80 Doing Work

The author pegged to the rail on a massive Goliath Grouper

Now, let’s talk about the Makaira’s drag system. Most big fish anglers don’t think you will ever need this much drag power, but trust me, you need it.  Using a heavy drag is very important when shark or other true big game fishing. Why? Well there are two main reasons.

Obviously the first and most important is to catch the shark. A heavy drag is needed to stop a big fish. In February of 2013, I hooked an estimated 14-ft. hammerhead that was trying to eat a 6-ft. blacktip shark. I was using the Makaira 80WII and I had the lever set to Strike. To my amazement, the shark didn’t even know that it has hooked. It just continued to swim at the same slow pace. Eventually the shark’s tail cut my 200lb monofilament mainline (the leader was too short for a shark of that size). It was a humbling experience, but it felt good to know that I had an extra 30 lbs. or more of insurance drag power.

Hammerhead beside the boat

Here’s a quick screen grab from a GoPro video the author had rolling while the group brought a massive hammerhead shark boatside before releasing. Using heavy drag pressure ensures a shorter fight and much healthier and successful release of these large fish.

The second is to ensure a safe and healthy release. Sharks need to be landed as quickly as possible in order to have a healthy release. They should never be “played” to the point of exhaustion. Certain species of sharks can potentially die if “played” to the point of exhaustion. This is especially true with hammerheads. Hammerheads have been known to fight to the death. By not using a heavy drag, there is a very high chance of killing a species like the hammerhead. Using a heavy drag will wear out a big shark much sooner and most of the time it will make them easier to handle on the beach or beside the boat.

Goliath Grouper

Big Goliath are an awesome sight to behold. Here, the author gets the chance to get up close and personal with one after using a Makaira 80WII reel to battle the fish to the boat.

Now let’s talk about goliath groupers for a moment. These creatures are one of the heavyweights in the ocean. In order to catch a Goliath grouper, an angler needs to prevent the fish from swimming into structure. Sounds easy right? Wrong! These fish are extremely powerful and sometimes you have less than 40 ft. to stop them from swimming into the structure. Imagine trying to stop a 500-lb. bass with only 40 ft. of line. This isn’t going to happen unless you use some serious drag. When I am fishing for goliath groupers, I usually have the lever set at full on my Makaira 80. It’s quite an experience using extreme amounts of drag in a vertical tug-of-war with a 500-lb. fish. It’s not uncommon for the Goliath to lift you off your feet. Trust me; it’s a nervous experience when this happens. My friend and I put the Makaira 80WII reel at Full and pulled as hard as possible to see if we could remove line off the spool; we couldn’t. Goliath grouper will pull line off the spool like it’s their job.

Overall, the Okuma Reel is an exceptional, well-built machine. It has become the standard for leverdrag reels in the industry. There aren’t too many fish in the ocean that the Makaira can’t handle.

Joshua Jorgensen runs the Blacktip Challenge Shark Fishing Tournament, a land based shark fishing event off Florida’s East Coast. He regularly targets big sharks and huge goliath groupers using Okuma Makaira 80W reels. See more information and videos at www.blacktipchallenge.com.