Okuma Captain Spotlight- Keith Denette – The Constitution

We had the chance to sit down with Captain Keith Denette of the sportfishing vessel The Constitution who runs part of the year out of San Diego California, and part of the year out of Puerto Vallarta Mexico.  Keith owned and ran the Maximus for many years until it went down, and built quite the business on that boat.  Known for comfortable trips and big fish, Keith has come full circle in the industry, and we are proud to have him as part of the Okuma family.

Okuma- How long have you been in and around the fishing industry?

Keith- My whole life. Been Rodin reelin’ since I was 4. Had this crazy addiction to catch fish. Got a little serious when I was 11 years old when I worked on the Ellie M for Bob Levy in 1982 as a deckhand and deckboss Jon Barriqutro showed me what was up. Mom did not like me working on sportboats.

Keith at Fred Hall Long Beach

O- What got you started?

KD- My Father introduced me to river and lake fishing. My brother hated fishing and he would always take him over me. Totally sucked. He was 5 years older then me but  that was ok. Still found a way to fish the docks and beaches.


O- You have been a key player in the San Diego Long Range game for quite some time.  What are some of the boats you have worked on?

KD- Never been a key player at all. Always did what is right and always put my family and crew first. The rest falls where it needs to go. Always exceed our anglers expectations and never short them. Small boat knowledge when I was a kid mostly out of Channel Islands harbor Sea Watch, Ellie M, Morning Star, New Bluefin, Estrella. Worked my first yacht at 20 yrs old. Then it went all uphill from there. Channel Islands, San Diego, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. 40 to 72 footers. Calico bass to Giant yellowfin tuna. Bought Nicole and I our first home on Marlin tournament winnings at Catalina Island.

Constitution Yellowfin Tuna Puerto Vallarta

O- Clearly you had to work your way up to becoming a captain, and one of the premier captains at that, but what duties did you have along the way that most aspiring Sportfishing captains might not know they may end up doing? 

KD- Cleaning heads, vomit, etc.

KD- Still clean vomit from time to time. There is no rank on my vessel. Get it done attitude. If you wait for some one to get the job done for you. You may not have a job when we hit the dock. I have lived a life of cleaning and customer service. I have instilled it in my children and they follow it daily.

Constitution Yellowfin Tuna Puerto Vallarta

O- What year did you purchase your fist boat, and how did that all come about?

KD- Bought serveral skiffs not boats. Rod and reeled seabass and halibut and always enjoyed being on the water. My son Hunter wanted to work on sportboats and I chose to work with him and teach him right. We ran a 6 pk job in Channel Islands. Fished exclusively seabass and halibut. Purchased the Maximus together with the profits in one season together around 2007.

Constitution Yellowfin

O- With so much time on the water and south of the border, what made you take a serious look at the PV area and focusing your business on that area? 

KD- Fished Cabo San Lucas for a few years and had a great opportunity to run a 32′ Topaz for a highly respected friend from Ventura. He gave me the first opportunity to fish giant yellowfin tuna on my own. Been fishing Puerto Vallarta for 200 plus days a year for years then I can remember.

Constitution Yellowfin

O- The Maximus was well known as THE premier PV boat if you wanted to get down and catch big fish regularly.  How long did it take you to establish yourself in PV and gain a steady following?

KD- It took time. I was born In Port Hueneme California and my mother was born in Mexico City. Most of my family is from Guadalajara. I was able to get duel citizenship and start a business without any problems. I enjoy employing the locals of Puerto Vallarta. There I was able to get permits to operate.  I would run trips with 2-4 anglers. Whoever could get the time to come down I would run and take them fishing.  Very little food was put on the table at that time. Our family stuck together and made the best of what we have. May have not been the best desicions in life or the standard way of operation but I gave it my best. I give all the credit to my friend Brandon Hayward for showing me the light and released the first article in Western Outdoor News. Multiple page write up “Cow Fishing Vegas Style”

Constitution Double

Constitution Yellowfin

O- With what happened to the Maximus a couple years ago, did you have a plan to get back into a boat right away and continue on?  Was there some hesitation?

KD- Yes there was some hesitation. I was in a sort of depression. Not knowing what will happen. First time Nicole and I were unemployed and needed assistance. I was ready to take any job and do what ever it took to put food on the table and hang on to what we had. A fish Market came to mind. What turned the table was our solid customer base that insisted we keep the deposits for our upcoming season. They some how knew I was not out of the game. They were willing to wait a couple years for us to find the right boat. That inspired Nicole and I to find something that was safe and larger then what we had.

Sword Fight

Constitution Sportfishing

O- How did the purchase of the Constitution come about?


KD- Nicole and I walked the docks in San Diego and literally spent every day, all day on yacht world, dockstreet, and every resource we could find online. All it led up to was disappointment. One after another seemed we could make this one work or another. I had this crazy feeling a sportboat was going to pop up on the screen. Never happend. We made a full asking offer in Ketchikan Alaska to find out the seller got cold feet. One wall after another. Then one day we had lunch at a hotel in San Diego on our regular drives to San Diego and I decided to contact Frank Ursitti.

Constitution Sportfishing

O- Now that you guys are in full swing, how many trips a year are you guys running down in PV, and up in SD?

KD- Not sure how many trips I run. Honestly I leave that to my wife Nicole. All I know is I work everyday from Oct to May. Do some maintenance in May/June then I run everyday at the end of June to October. I think I’m on the water a little more then 300 days a year.


O- It has been incredible to see such huge fish coming over the rail regularly for you guys.  What is it about you that brings monster fish to the boat?

Monster Yellowfin

KD- Patience. We are always changing our game here. As conditions change so do we. I am constantly messing with the rigging that we use. I think we discuss as a crew what leader we should be fishing on every trip. Hook size, reel size, leader size and so on…I give credit to my crew. Stand alone we have the best operators, Deckhand’s and chefs available. Proud to have the same crew up to 10 years. Our passengers see it and feel it when they come onboard.

Western Outdoor News Cover Shot

Bottom Fish Too

O- As tackle has evolved over the years, is there anything special that you look for in gear? 

KD- Absolutely. Without the proper tools we have nothing. We have the funding to buy anything available on the market. I could care less what this company wants to give us this and that. What we have chose to work with is by far the best tools we can use to land anything that swims in these waters.


Rail Rod

O- Clearly your clients are looking for an incredible experience, and gear makes the trip. Are there any go-to set ups that you grab right off the rail?

KD- Sure. Plain and simple. Cost effective equipment that gets the job done. Okuma Makaira 30’s and 50’s is what we have onboard. Love to see a Makaira 50 narrow. I think that may be a game changer. I could see us with 50 narrows, topless 50’s and 80’s in the future.

Makaira SEa family

Makaira internal look

O- Anything else you’d like to add about you and Nichole or the Constitution business in general?

KD- Well she is my soulmate. We have been together since she was 15 and I was 16. We started a rockcod/shrimpfly gangion business when we were 17 years old. I worked in the fishing industry all my life. We have children. Our Daughter Isabella is 16 years old and my son Hunter is 19. Hunter just passed his 100 ton Captains course. NIcole answers the phone. Gives all of our angler all the nessesary information to guide our anglers to the best experience they can have. She never had the opportunity to fish the Maximus and she just got her first experience on the Constitution and got to experience how easy a female can come down and have a chance to catch a giant yellowfin tuna. Well she caught a 185 and a 302 lber. First time on her own boat. Pretty awesome I may add..


To find out more information on booking trips for giant tuna aboard The Constitution, please visit their website at https://constitutionsportfishing.com/


Makaira Spinning Reels Launch Okuma Fishing Tackle Into Elite-Level Big Game Spinning Reel Market

In 2010, Okuma Fishing Tackle earned a position among elite manufacturers of conventional offshore reels with the introduction of Makaira lever drag reels. For 2017, Okuma continues to reinvent big game fishing with Makaira spinning reels, again delivering unique, advanced design and new levels of power and longevity.

Makaira Spinning Reel

Makaira spinning reels are a revolutionary display of structural strength, fish-fighting power and long-term durability.

Makaira spinning reels are based upon the Okuma 4D Concept of performance benchmarks: Design, Drive, Drag and Durability. Two sizes include the MK-20000 with a capacity of 490-yards of 65-pound braid and the MK-30000 with a capacity of 700-yards of 80-pound braid. Makaira spinning reels are fixed retrieve, including four total models: the MK-20000LS and MK-30000LS in left hand retrieve and the MK-20000RS and MK-30000RS in right hand retrieve. The screw-in, non-folding handle arm design delivers ultimate strength from the connection.

The two sizes of Makaira spinning reels, 20000 and 30000, weigh 32.5 and 36.7 ounces respectively. As construction materials are considered, Makaira’s finished weight is generally within 2-ounces of competitive reels.

Working from the outside in, the frame, side plate and Cyclonic Flow rotor are cold forged, then machined, from A6061 aircraft aluminum. Cold forging compresses more material into a given space, producing greater consistency and strength than components machined from billet aluminum or die-cast, both of which are current standards in the industry. Makaira is the only spinning reel available with a complete forged aluminum housing.

Makaira Spinning Frame

Makaira spinning reels utilize a forged, machined aluminum frame for unmatched strength.

To stand up to brutal saltwater conditions, the body and spool of the Makaira spinning reel are watertight, sealed by twenty-three oil-retaining O-rings and gaskets. All internal mechanisms are sealed and protected from salt. Within this sealed environment is Makaira’s drive system. Featuring a forged, machine cut and ported 304 stainless steel main gear paired with a 17-4 stainless steel pinion gear, the strength of the drive system is unmatched. The oscillation system furthers the strength and precision of the drive system, supported by two shafts to provide a solid foundation.

The Makaira drive system runs fluidly on nine Japanese NMB ball bearings plus roller bearing. Bearing placements include two in the spool/drag system, two on the pinion gear, two on the drive gear and one each on the rotor nut, transmission gear and line roller.

Drag systems are points of separation in big game reels and the Makaira spinning reel again stands apart. Utilizing the Okuma Dual Force Drag, the system utilizes a greased carbon fiber/stainless steel drag stack in the top of the spool as well as additional oversized carbon fiber and stainless drag washers in the massive area on the bottom of the spool. By utilizing both the top and bottom of the spool in the DFD system, braking is even, drag output is increased and heat dissipation is dramatically improved.

Makaira Main Gear

A forged stainless steel main gear headlines Makaira’s design excellence.

The Makaira DFD system delivers an amazing 66-pounds of maximum drag pressure. Within this exceptional range, the design also delivers outstanding precision. Makaira features Okuma’s unique Micro Adjustable Power Drag, that essentially operates like a conventional lever drag system with a drag preset, then fine adjustment within the range. With the drag returned to zero, the coarse adjustment is set. From there, 60 detent points within 20 reference points on the drag housing control fine adjustment. The Makaira drag system can be set to push fishing lines right to, without exceeding, their breaking points.

In expectation of high drag output, Makaira spinning reels feature dual anti-reverse systems. An IMA German one-way clutch bearing is backed up by a ratcheting anti-reverse system for complete security on the largest fish.

On top of the best materials available, all internal and external metal parts of the Makaira spinning reel are coating with Corrosion X HD during assembly. This penetrating coating is one final preventive measure against saltwater corrosion.

Standing behind the finest construction in the industry is Okuma’s industry-leading 5-Year Limited Warranty. In addition to covering any defects in materials and workmanship, the warranty includes one free lube and service during the 5-year period. Anglers need only pay for freight to and from Okuma to have their reel inspected, cleaned and re-lubed to factory specifications.

Makaira spinning reels will be available this fall at an MSRP of $769.99 for the 20000 size and $879.99 for the 300000 size. Check your local dealers for availability.

Building the Okuma Makaira Reels

We’ve all been out fishing and have seen a variety of styles and brands of reels on on various boats.  One reel that has really taken the offshore market by storm is the Okuma Makaira Lever Drag reel.  The Makaira is the flagship of the Okuma lineup, and has been so for a good four plus years now.  With extensive testing and input from the leaders in the industry, including Cal Sheets and the engineers at Tiburon, the Makaira was built to be the best reel on the market.

Makaira Cut Out

With a full family of sizes from an 8 to a 130, the Makaira has you covered.  Also available in a couple of Special Edition configurations, featuring open bearings, TSI-301 oil, larger handle design on a couple models, and a tuna etched on the side.  The Special Edition reel is also available in Gun Smoke, Silver, and a limited amount of Black.

Makaira SEaPeople often ask us the intricacies involved in building a reel like the Makaira.  It just so happens that a TV show was filmed in Taiwan over that past few weeks on the actual production of the Makaira Reels.  This was filmed at the factory in Taiwan and features some fun fishing footage, as well as some great insight into how these reels are actually produced.

As previously mentioned, the Makaira reels have been having great success and have accounted for hundreds of big fish.  In Southern California, the Makaira has become a staple in the long range fishery, and being fished by such sport boats as the Excel, Red Rooster III, Apollo, Royal Star, Intrepid, Maximus, and the list goes on.

Here are a couple of catches from the past couple seasons on the Makaira.
image (1) image Kevin Matson Okuma sign 20150221_045545_resized 20150221_113431_resized 20150222_025015_resized Apollo Rack

For more information on the Makaira lineup of reels, please visit http://www.okumafishingusa.com/product/view/reels/lever-drag-reels/makaira






Everything That You Wanted To Know About Shark Fishing But Didn’t Know To Ask

As a charter captain, I make a living taking people fishing. I don’t really care what species they want to catch; I fish for them all. One common thread amongst fishermen is “I want to catch something big!”

Is this big enough? It’s almost 16 feet long and weighed 560#!
Hooking something like this is one thing….landing it is another story altogether. Not getting killed getting it in the boat is a skill. Releasing big sharks is where having experience and a really broad comfort zone comes in handy.

Let’s talk about releasing sharks today, as most of the shark fishing we do is catch-and-release. Rule Number One: Don’t get killed. Don’t get maimed. Don’t get wrapped up and pulled overboard. Be as kind to the released shark as possible. Catch him again sometime. Get some experience with someone who is good at it before going out on your own. Being comfortable wiring a shark to the boat is important. YOU ARE THE QUARTERBACK. You call the shots. The angler is an extension of your mind. If you remember only one thing make it this: The battle isn’t over until the shark swims away and the line is back in the boat.

Do not relax, nor let the angler relax, until that happens. So often the leaderman grabs the snap-swivel and the angler high-fives someone, relaxing. Celebrating. Wrong! The second that the wireman grabs the line, the angler should back off on the drag a little (lever drag is best) and get the rod away from his body, keeping the line tight from the rod tip to the wireman’s hand. I scream when I feel slack line hit my hand, arm, or head. If that shark runs away before we can cut it, that slack line can wrap around a body part and be deadly.

This is the most dangerous part of the battle. I tell the angler and wire cutting mate the following: “If the shark goes nuts after I grab the line, I may yell ‘NO’ and throw the wire away from me and let the shark swim away. We can always reel it back in. Not a big deal. We’re going to release it anyways and it’s all about the battle. It’s better to tire the shark out on the rod, away from the boat than to deal with an angry shark boatside where it can do some real damage.

This leads me to the following observation: “If I can keep its head above its tail, I can control the shark.” The second that he shark goes horizontal or gets its tail above its head it is time to throw the line in and start over. You will be amazed at how fast a shark can whip its tail around and hurt you.

It’s all about the rigging. We fish primarily with “Makaira 50’s and 50-wides”. Our mainline is 100# Tuf-Line and we put 500-700 yards on the spool and top it with approximately 150-200 yards of 80 or 100# mono. (we do a lot of Bluefin tuna fishing and the line reflects the possibility of hooking into a giant, giant tuna…so we want line capacity and power…a 500 pound tuna is not a 500 pound shark…it’ll take 800 yards of line against 40 pounds of drag without stopping.. the extra line buys us time to clear the deck and chase a fish like that.)

But I digress. We end our topshot with a bimini twist to which we attach a 20-foot long wind-on leader of 400# mono. We have this so we can reel the shark right to the wire leader. It is the safest way to do it. WE NEVER WRAP LEADER AROUND A GLOVE. EVER. We end the windon leader with a 4/0 snap-swivel. It’s a huge snap-swivel and to that we connect an 8’ single strand 174-195# wire leader attached to a 16/0 circle hook.
We use this rigging for the following reason. The wire man grabs the snap-swivel with one hand (it’s big enough to grip) and the wire rests on his other (gloved as well, obviously) hand. Lifting with one hand and using the other hand in this manner “eats” up about 4 feet of leader. The shark will be right below the lower hand…

The “cutting” person can then easily slide a pair of wire cutters straight down the wire to the shark’s jaws (or until he gets too spooked) where he can easily cut the wire. Biologists have told me than non-stainless hooks rust out within a couple of weeks. Since circle hooks penetrate the corner of the mouth 95%+ of the time, the sharks leave with a temporary piercing and are not much worse for the wear.

We also do a lot of sight fishing.. This is where we bring out the spinning gear. We use the same gear that we’d use for tuna, but we use 100-150# windon leaders and a shorter wire leader to allow for casting of baits. Of course, you can’t cast wire through the eyes, so that’s the reason for the shorter leader. When we’re casting at sharks… we use “breakaway” hooks. I prefer using 4/0 closed eye Siwash hooks from Gamakatsu.

I’ve never broken a hook on a shark UNTIL I WANTED TO… That is to say, they are very sharp hooks that hold well…so you set the hook immediately when the shark takes the bait. Using up to 20 pounds of drag, I have yet to bend one of those hooks. However, when we get the sharks boatside, the leaderman is able to grab the snap-swivel and can pull on the wire leader, bending the hook out of the shark’s mouth in one quick, relatively easy motion. If you are fishing without a mate or with inexperienced anglers, this is a great way to do it. It’s very safe and minimizes exposure to the sharks boatside. If the hook is straightened out, you can put it back in shape with a pair of pliers. Of course, it’ll weaken after a couple of sharks, but you’re going to release them anyways, so what’s the big deal if the hook breaks on a shark you’re going to release anyways?

We typically catch blue sharks in Massachusetts. North of Cape Cod, they are typically 225-300#, while they are a bit smaller south of Cape Cod. We have caught them approaching 500#. They are real monsters at that size. Catching 10-25 sharks in a day is quite typical, so we have a lot of experience catching, fighting, and releasing these sharks. Because it is a catch-and-release fishery for the most part, making sure that they survive the battle is important, thus the use of circle hooks. Keep following for the next shark fishing article: “What to do if you’re going to keep and eat a shark…”.

See you on the water! If you’re interested in fishing Massachusetts for sharks, tuna, stripers, or any other fish, take a look at us at www.blackrosefishing.com or call Capt. Rich Antonino at 508-269-1882. His email is captain@blackrosefishing.com and he is able to answer any questions that you may have about shark fishing, fishing in general, or Okuma fishing gear.

Okuma and Savage Gear sponsored Tribute Sportfishing 2.5 day report

What started off as a 2.5 day coastal trip for Ling Cod and the possibility at some yellowtail, turned into an absolute epic trip for VERY early season offshore pelagics. After hearing a report a week earlier that the Sportfishing boat, The Eclipse, got into some unexpected yellowfin tuna, our trip aboard the Tribute filled up fast. With a limited load of 28 passengers, this spacious vessel out of Seaforth Landing in San Diego, was the place to be. Once the reports hit, the boat filled fast.
When we all arrived down at the boat after work on Friday afternoon, we arrived to overcast skies. That in itself didn’t damper any of the thoughts of tuna and yellowtail that were filling the anglers minds.

Sunset view while at the bait receiver in Mission Bay

While anglers were getting signed in up at the landing, we took the boat on over and got her filled up with primed sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.

Pulling up to the bait receiver in Mission Bay

Scoop after scoop of cured, primed bait came over the rail. This was really good looking stuff too!

A big scoop of Sardines getting dropped into the tank.

Back at the dock, anglers were lined up and ready to get on board and start the journey. As the team of anglers was boarding the Tribute, they were greeted by Dave Brown, Promotional and Events Manager for Okuma and Savage Gear. He was in the galley handing out swag for the trip.

Swag for the trip included, Okuma Hats, Savage Gear Beanie caps, Okuma Rod Wraps, Savage Gear T-Shirts, and stickers.

The time came to shove off, and off we went. After hearing the reports the plan was to make the long trip down to fish offshore day one, and if it didn’t look good, we’d head inside and fish coastal or islands for yellowtail.

Tribute gets ready to pull away from the dock and make the journey south.

The boat departed about 9pm and off we went. We had about a 160 mile run south to start to get into the fishing zone. Along the way we saw plenty of sea life. Dolphin, Porpoise, and even a huge pod of Sperm Whales were sited. We all got a some rest that first night and when we woke up, well, we still had quite a ways to go. We were getting some reports of early fish from boats that had gotten down to the zone earlier, and it sounded really good. We were all getting really excited.
We dropped the trollers back mid day, and started the official trolling rotation shortly after that. About 3pm, we found what we were looking for. A nice pod of dolphin that were holding Yellowfin. Yellowfin…this is May right? Crazy! From that jig strike we only got a couple fish. No bait fish came up. Captain Mike Pritchard made the choice to pull the trollers so that we can get on down to the zone and not be stopped by 1 and 2 fish jig strikes. This was a great call. Once we got down into the zone it went crazy. Fish were spotted all around. Deep sonar marks, breaking fish, etc.

One of the day one fish that ended up being one of the biggest fish of the day. Caught on an Andros 5 mounted on a Makaira rod. Good fight, but worked that fish to the surface.

Here Jake is holding up a nice Bluefin caught on the Andros and Makaira combo.

Day one went on and we ended up with a pretty impressive count of about 35 various tuna and a handful of yellowtail

A look at a few of the fish for day 1 laid out to be cleaned and jackpot awarded.

After fishing was through, we all headed in for a delicious meal prepared by Tommy.

The first dinner was pork roast. It looked and everyone said it tasted absolutely delicious. You couldn’t even get these guys to look up for a picture they were so focused.

Hard day of fishing followed by a hot meal.

After the amount of fish we saw around the area, capt Mike made the decision to stay in the same spot. We put out the sea anchor and drifted the area until dawn.
When the sun finally came up, we started fishing. We trolled around a bit for jig strikes that came fairly regularly. Some jig strikes would turn into a 10-20 fish stop. The decks were getting pretty bloody, and the fish hold was filling.

After a jig stop.

On occasion, we would stop on some deep meter marks. The Bluefin would come up charging the boat. Some of these stops went on for a good while.

An anglers getting his bluefin to gaff. The Andros was the weapon of choice for this fish.

Andros getting it done again on another nice fish.

After getting a few fish in the box, it was time to have a little fun. I got some fish on bait and some fish on the slide with Savage Gear Sand Eels. It was time to take out the Komodo 350’s and put a whoopin’ on some Bluefin.

Dave Brown with a nice Bluefin taken on the Komodo 350 and Shadow Stalker rod.

The fishing just went on and on. We took every second of that extended trip to take advantage of MAY tuna fishing. It was incredible.

Here the Cortez 5 and Cedros Coastal rod did the trick. Artificials worked great on this trip as well.

I had some raffles, gave away some prizes, and even had a contest. Biggest fish caught on one of the Okuma set ups won a new Cedros Coastal Rod. Lots of anglers tried out the gear, and from what they said, we even have a couple of converts.
Here are two winners of the Cedros Coastal rods.

Okuma prize winners.

After stretching it out as long as we could, Captain Mike made the call that it was time to start the 17 hour journey home. But…after two days of looking, we found our first kelp patty. And wouldn’t you know, it ended up being a stop for right around 60 yellowtail.
Once all of the gear was packed up, anglers cleaned up and headed to dinner. Chef Tommy had a delicious Tri-Tip dinner ready for everyone.

Tommy hard at work at the grill.

Tri-Tip the last night to wind up the trip.

It was a great trip all around. The crew of the Tribute really takes good care of you. From keeping the boat clean, to the care they take in processing your catch. Not to mention Captain Mike Pritchard for going the extra distance getting us down on the fish.
I mean hey, this is May still right? Crazy!

For more information on upcoming Okuma and Savage Gear sponsored trips aboard the Tribute, visit www.tributesportfishing.com.

Preparing for Battle: A Captain’s Formula for Tackle and Rigging for Shark Fishing

By Capt. Rich Antonino

I love shark fishing. I’ve gotten very efficient at it over the course of about 500 sharks. Most of those are released to get even bigger. I’ve learned a lot over the years, from preparation, finding them, chumming for them, catching them, releasing them and staying safe.

Let’s talk today about getting ready, with regard to the gear that you’ll need. We’ll get into the other topics at another time.

I fish on the East Coast, north of Cape Cod, and the sharks we see are typically 200-lb-plus blue sharks. We have seen them pushing 500 lbs. however, and we usually see at least one more than 300 lbs. on every trip. The  Makos we see are typically 85 to 90 inches long and 220 to 300 lbs. They can reach more than  1,000 lbs. in the Northeast. Threshers are usually 200 to 400 lbs. Porbeagle sharks are commonly 300-plus lbs. Yes, we have good sized sharks regularly. Since we often catch 10-20 sharks in an outing, having backup gear and extras is very important.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend fishing 80-sized reels here as most sharks would be outmatched by them. We have fished Okuma Makaira 50’s and 50-wide 2-speed reels since they were created. They are the perfect reel for this task as they are small enough to give proper battle to the average shark, but they have the guts for any monsters that come our way. We match them up to the Makaira XH Trolling rods. I feel that once again it’s not too much, but enough. I think that attitude fits sharking well – I have enough “just in case.”

What happens if you hook that monster? It’s going to take a ton of line, so be ready. We spool our reels with 600 yards of 100-lb. test Tuf-Line Guide’s Choice hollow core as backing on the reel. Then we splice 200 yards of 100-lb. test mono into it. Like I said – “just in case”. Most sharks won’t get you into backing. On several occasions, however, we’ve needed every bit of backing because a giant tuna took a bait or because that monster mako came into the slick. Extra line equals extra time to get ready (to chase it if you have to or to tire it out if you can’t chase it).

Holding onto a rod with a big shark on the line is tough, so we use a variety of harnesses to make the battle easier. For big fish, we use a Black Magic Fishing Harness. You get to use your whole body to fight the fish. We also use a general gimble belt for smaller sharks and quicker battles. We also use the Cush-It rod butt cushion for more active battles.

For leader, safety is an issue. I like to use wind-on leaders (400-lb.mono). We can reel in the entire leader, getting us within “release distance” to the shark safely. We crimp on a 4/0 snap swivel to the end of the leader. Then we connect our 9-ft.  single-strand 174-lb. or 240-lb. wire leader to this snap swivel. Our hook of choice is a 16/0 circle hook underneath a 13-in. octopus skirt.

Why do we set it up this way? We catch and release a lot of sharks, so quickness and ease is important. Circle hooks do their job by hooking the shark in the corner of the mouth..We cut the wire and leave the hook—it falls out within weeks as they are cheap hooks (never had one break). We cut the wire off as close to the shark as possible and just tie another hook on using a haywire twist. This way, we can catch 5-6 sharks on one leader without having to re-rig. Once it’s “too short”, we start with another 9-ft. leader.

Wearing sunglasses is very important at this stage – when the wire is cut, sometimes it will snap back towards the boat. Spitting blood one day, my mate wondered where it was coming from. It came from his cheek! The wire had pierced his cheek completely. It could have been his eye. Always wear glasses!

Now that you have the rig set up how do we keep the bait at the right depth? We use cheap water balloons and we keep extras in our pockets. Blow them up and tie them onto the line at the right depth. If you are using 8-oz. of lead or less, you can get by with only one balloon. We use these balloons because they tear off of the line easily and because they are so cheap. Speaking of sinkers – we use electrical tape to tape weights onto the wind-on leader just above the snap swivel. It doesn’t bother the line and they are easily removed if you ever want to switch them off.

Our chum is frozen into 4-gallon buckets. We take the cover off of the bucket and invert the bucket into a milk crate box. This way the chum flows out nicely as it thaws and is easily reused if there is any left at the end of the day.

If we are going to keep a shark for the table, I prefer to harpoon them, but a flying gaff is also good. You need a straight gaff to secure the tail as you tail rope it. This is one of the most dangerous parts of the battle that I’ll go over in another article.

If you do keep a shark, we find that the best knife to use is a serrated knife. Serrated knives cut through the skin the best and they maintain their edge very well. They are the best at removing fins, jaws, and head.

In addition to the chum, we have a multitude of different baits that we use. It is nice to have a variety on ice, but an old standby is the rack of a locally caught fish. Sharks are used to scavenging around fishing boats, so having local selection often works. We hook the rack in the tail and hang it that way under the balloon or along the side of the boat.

Hopefully this will give you an idea of how we prepare to target sharks.

Best of luck out there!

Capt. Rich Antonino owns and operates Black Rose Fishing Charters. For more information or to book a trip, visit his website at www.blackrosefishing.com.

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.

Makaira SE Reels -Taking Live Bait to the Limit

For most offshore anglers, a Makaira two-speed game reel will spend the bulk of its’ working life in a rod holder.  In tow might be an 8- to 12-inch trolling lure, maybe a skirt over a ballyhoo, perhaps a bridled skipjack.  At intervals the reel will be brought to life and engaged in a battle of wills, to which it will respond with the faithfulness of a dog and an overwhelming display of power and grace.

For the above outlined tasks, Makaira reels are constructed to far exceed the life covered by their 5-year factory warranty.  Spool bearings are protected by a 30% grease pack that allows for competent freespool, but more importantly protects the bearings. Non-spool bearings receive a 100% grease pack again placing protection of key components at a premium.  The gear ratios of the two-speeds offer versatility to take on any pelagic you might encounter from a sport boat.

The long-range fishing boats departing from San Diego, California present unique challenges to anglers. Certainly the yellowfin, wahoo and yellowtail are big, but that’s pretty basic. The larger challenges begin with the fact these fish are pursued primarily with live bait. Instead of stripping 100-feet of line to place a lure in a spread, excellence in this fishery requires clearing the boat by casting a light bait fish on 40- to 100-pound tackle.  Once in the water, the reel needs to feed line so effortlessly the bait fish swims as if it’s simply free-swimming. And the longer a strong swimming baitfish can be maintained, the more certain one can be that it will be eaten.

Makaira SE Family

From the MK30-IISEa down to the MK8-IISEa, this Makaira family has been custom designed for the live bait community.

At the moment of the strike the second challenge begins. In many cases, the boat is anchored and in virtually all cases, there is no chasing the fish with the boat. Every inch of line must be earned. The fish can be followed around the boat, but the boat is not repositioned to assist a single angler when 25 more are continuing their pursuit of a bite.

While Makaira reels have become renowned for their drag system and integrity of internal components, the long-range community, spearheaded by elite angler David Choate and reel technician Alan Tani, requested specific modifications to advance Makaira to the position of the ultimate long-range reels. The result is the Makaira SE.

Makaira SE reels are available in sizes 8, 10, 15, 20 and 30, all featuring topless (no crossbar across the top of the reel) construction. The primary modifications are straightforward, yet incredibly important to long-range anglers. The first is that the 35% grease pack on the spool bearings has been completely removed, as have the shields that protect their exterior. Instead, completely open bearings are lubricated with TSI 301 oil.

TSI 301 oil is not a petroleum-based lubricant. A pure synthetic ester, TSI 301 penetrates the pores in metal and bonding itself to the surface. Greatly reducing surface tension, the application dramatically cuts friction and reduces wear. When exceptional freespool is the difference between great reward and difficult fishing, this bearing system outperforms virtually all others. Of note is that their is no free lunch here. When bearings are opened and oiled instead of greased, they do require maintenance to maintain their peak performance. But the anglers willing to travel four days by boat to reach the world’s greatest fishing grounds do not shy away from their responsibilities to their equipment. These are detail-oriented anglers.


Click for a detail look at the Makaira SE anodizing and etched graphics.

The second modification is an oversized handle arm to deliver more torque. When you are unable to reposition the boat to the best advantage of the angler, the angler has to be able to authoritatively bear down on the fish. Makaira and Makara SE reels all incorporate powerful 17-4 stainless steel gearing and shafts that can withstand incredible stress. The longer handle arms allow anglers a significant increase in leverage and greater ability to move large fish.

The third modification applies to Makaira SE 20 and 30 sizes only. It’s a lower ratio in the low gear.  Where the standard Makaira is 1.7:1, these SE’s are 1.3:1. Again the purpose here is to increase leverage and keep the fish moving towards the boat. Very commonly, anglers will hang 150- to 300-pound yellowfin on these size reels and of absolute importance to the battle is to be able to actively gain line. The longer the fight continues, the more opportunity is that something will go wrong.

In a few final touches, Makaira SE reels feature gun smoke anodizing, an engraved tuna adorning the left side plate and all the frames have receive further machining to increase line clearance and reduce weight.

While Makaira SE reels are neither necessary and in some cases not recommended to the broader range of offshore anglers (if you do not regularly maintain your reels, the SE line up is not for you), for those seeking refined live bait performance the Makaria SE addresses the needs specific to the fishery.

Owners of standard Makaira reels that are interested in the modification can have them made at our California headquarters. The bearings and handle can be changed out for $29.99 which includes parts and labor.  On the 20 and 30 sizes, the bearings, handle and low-gear modifications can be made for $59.99 including parts and labor. Shipping charges in both cases are additional.

Makairas On El Matador In Puerto Vallarta!

Some of our first reports of solid action on Makaira reels came from PV.  And one year later, testimony to Makaira performance continues to pour in.

Makaira MK-15II with angler and yellowfin tuna on El Matador

Makaira MK-15II knocks down a quality yellowfin on El Madador

Captain Manny Orcaranza owns and operates El Matador Sportfishing.  As a Captain, Manny’s star is on a fast rise as one of the top “young guns” in the business.  El Matador Sportfishing focuses on the big fish opportunities offered by locations El Banco and Corbetania.  With solid availability of large yellowfin tuna, along with blue and black marlin, El Matador’s fishing grounds also make exceptional proving grounds for equipment of all kinds, and for the last six months Captain Manny has been putting Makaira MK-15IIs, MK-20II’s and more recently MK-30II SE’s (gunmetal gray, open top 30 wides) through their paces, knocking back quantities of tuna from 50- to over 200-pounds along with plenty of billfish.

Catching up with Captain Manny, here’s the quick rundown of his applications for each size Makaira he uses.  Makaira Mk-15II’s are the everyday reels of the fishery.  Very few lures are ever trolled on El Matador.  The preferred method is drifting live bait (goggle eyes) amongst the porpoise schools.  For yellowfin from 50- to 200-pounds the MK-15II is the preferred model for its’ combination of fantastic drag, light weight and necessary line capacity.

Makaira Caught Yellowfin on El Matador

A big part of the draw in Puerto Vallarta is the accessibility of this grade of fish within a 12-hour trip.

The MK-20II comes into play when the tuna are obviously on the larger end of the scale, 150- to 200+-pounds, and as the everyday reel for baiting blue and black marlin.  In Captain Manny’s own words, “I’ve never had a reel that is as smooth.  Such a smooth reel… the drag… fighting fish. Two hour fights on tuna and it remains smooth.”

The MK-30II SE’s are relatively new additions to El Matadors arsenal.  “I’ll use them for trolling live skipjack for 200- to 300-pound tuna and marlin.”  The 30-wides are also the reel of choice for kite presentations.

“I personally think they are the greatest reels I’ve used,” finished Captain Manny.

The fishery in Puerto Vallarta continues to be one of the most convenient and accessible land-based opportunities for yellowfin of exceptional size.  Interested?  Look up Captain Manny Orcaranza and El Matador Sportfishing’s custom, air conditioned 35’ Cabo at: www.elmatadorsportfishing.com