Away Games: The Life of a Road Warrior - The Fisherman

Away Games: The Life of a Road Warrior

2019 2 The Life Of A Road Warrior Jason Miller Bluefin
A road trip from Manasquan to Cape Cod in 2018 went well for angler Jason Miller and crew who brought this 72-inch bluefin home after a three-hour, 10-mile battle.

Make 2019 the year you consider taking your show on the road.

Your boat is in the same slip as it has been for years. It’s nice deep water, and you know every spot. You have your regular places for striped bass, blackfish, fluke and even the occasional weakfish. You know where the fish will stage during each tide and moon phase. You’re hard wired and dialed in.

But there are some drawbacks to always fishing the same area. The big fish in the small pond doesn’t even need to develop any further. It’s comfortable, mostly predictable; mostly. But as we all know, the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill, right?

Some anglers are pretty far along this learning curve, at least as far as they’re concerned anyway—good fishermen, comfortable in their particular area. But sometimes things change, fish migration routes vary, bait populations scatter. One small change in the ecosystem and an entire world of fishing falls into disarray.

Then there are the guys who dream big, loading their pocket-sized battle wagons full of big game tackle on a trailer to chase the fish that others might only dream about. Neither lore nor legend can put a 250-pound bluefin tuna on the deck; only grit, determination and a tremendous work ethic can make it happen! That’s how Jason Miller landed his personal best bluefin tuna with Capt. Michael Rempusheski at the helm of their 25-foot Mako center console.

2019 2 The Life Of A Road Warrior TOURNEY
Applying your home field skills on away games can often produce good results, as was the case with this $15K check for Jersey boys from El’Nino at the 2018 “Flounder Pounder Open” in Delaware.

With a crew that included Brett Keepers and Chris Varjan, the Jersey boys towed their boat from Manasquan to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to begin their adventure. After arriving, they jigged mackerel for bait and spoke to some locals to find out where the action has been. Instead of an inshore topwater bite, they found themselves running 125 miles to Georges Bank.

“Marking bait and whales all night we kept short drifting 150- to 300-foot drop-offs,” Jason said. “Finally, sunrise comes and still drifting this area of life that we found out 80W started screaming like we hooked into a Mack truck.” Strapping himself into the harness, a three-hour battle ensued during which the big bluefin took the crew 10 miles from where it was first hooked.

Bringing extra fuel and a game plan (and a plan b) when running to a brand new spot can open up brand new opportunities; like rediscovering fishing all over again.

Team Efforts

It’s just a normal summer weekend at the Jersey Shore, and I’m semi-conscious as we are running back to the ramp. We had a great day of jigging blackfish and sea bass on the El’Nino, but it was our time to begin planning the next weekend’s foray. There is a fluke tournament in Delaware in a few weeks that we should pre-fish for, but the fluke bite off Montauk has been silly with an average size that makes most fluke fishermen envious.  After the day’s mediocre catch, and no real size to speak of, we needed to find some new bottom, and pronto!  Not on a whim of course, but by design, we planned a road trip.

If the weather holds, we will leave after work on Friday. That will get us through New York City after rush hour, and we should make it to Montauk by 11 p.m.  Grab a few hours of shut eye in the boat cabin or truck, and the sun will be up before we know it. This is a concept that Team El’Nino has carved a notch into, especially with the favored targets of oversized fluke and striped bass. They are a very hard working group of highly skilled fishermen and they built a rig that fits the bill perfectly.

Is your rig ready for the road? With a conscious effort and some serious organizing skills you can get your rig ready for a week’s vacation, or a detailed tactical mission with your crew.

Nino Aversa is a very passionate guy who focuses on piloting and navigation of the truck and boat. His brainstorm partner is Ron Redrow who has a special knack for keeping an eye on the wind. Together, they plan on how the marine weather forecasts will affect their fishing plans, particularly how wind speed and direction will be two of the deciding factors as to their destination for any weekend.

Fueled by forecasts and local fishing reports, they will decide on this weekend’s port of call.   Maybe they drop in at Leonardo and fish the Raritan Bay where a stiff north wind might find them dropping in at Staten Island. Northerly wind will have calmer seas nearshore of the New York side, which could mean a full day of fishing under decent conditions. There is no substitute for “more time” on the water with a like-minded group of friends and family to round out the crew.

Rigged & Ready

The boat has a lot going on and is rigged to the teeth. With a maximum trailerable width of 8-1/2 feet the boats that were considered for this task are a bit limited without special trailering permits. El’Nino is a 23-foot Parker Sport Cabin pushed around by a 225-horsepower Yamaha four-stroke. While her size may be diminutive to some, her fishability is enormous with electronics thoughtfully rigged and all wiring and rigging neat and clean. But aside from the obvious, safety is the common theme in this travel rig, with a life raft and EPIRB onboard.

Nino himself likes to concentrate his focus on finding oversized fluke amidst the reef sites and snags, and his strength lies in his boat control.  He fishes from his Parker’s cockpit helm station where steering wheel and engine controls with a nav and sounder combination unit allow him to fish the bottom, line up the drift, and have the rod in hand all day long.  By back trolling, he’s able to position the drift to skirt the structure, without constantly dragging all the rigs into the snag.  It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it, but it allows the El’Nino crew to adapt to ever-changing situations while fishing road games.

2019 2 The Life Of A Road Warrior MONTAUK
Keeping the boat on wheels and ready to roll in the New Year can put you and your crew into the action, from the DELMARVA to the doormat grounds of Montauk. Photo courtesy of team El’Nino.

A remote controlled MinnKota trolling motor integrated with a Humminbird Solix display has proven to be a game changer. Used in conjunction with the outboard, it keeps the boat straight on drifts where tricky currents give captains fits.  With the Spot Lock feature, anchoring on a wreck was never so easy!  Get on your spot and press the button, the stability is amazing and its ease of small moves is nearly cheating.  Finding a wreck is one problem, but finding the section of the wreck that is holding the best fish at any particular stage of the tide, that’s another challenge altogether. Being able to creep along in varied directions using the MinnKota is great, especially when prospecting new areas of water.

When taking your show on the road, keep in mind that everything that can be anticipated should really be planned for. The amount of equipment, tackle and gear required can be a daunting task and will easily become counterproductive if not well organized. Stowed where it should be, gear always at the ready; but just as important as having what you need, is eliminating the gear that you don’t need. Bring the gear required for your target species; as in, leave the sharking rods at home when you are on a fluking mission, just as mojo rigs have no place on a tuna boat.  Remember, you are pushing the envelope; you’re on a mission, and your boat is not a storage container.

On the Road Again

Just as important as your boat, your truck and trailer are not afterthoughts either. Maintenance is priority number one on any rig, but especially for the long-range runner. Trailer maintenance includes a bearing repack and new grease seals and brake check every spring. Tire pressure check and light bulb check are preformed every Friday night before we go. A separate tool box for the truck and trailer is a great idea. Keep spare bulbs, wire ties and electrical tape, and a greased spare hub assembly at the ready—all the way to the cotter pin and cap. This has saved my day several times.

With a passion for following the striped bass migration, this rig gives these guys the ability to strike fast. They can pull the boat from its home waters in Ocean City, NJ and be back in the water a few hundred miles away before the sun rises. Being easy going, hard fishing guys makes them a popular group to be around and has helped them develop a network of fellow fishing friends, many of whom are locals to their destinations.  Keeping ego in check and making as many friends as possible along the way can be very helpful when you need local knowledge. Maybe you need a slip for the weekend, or are looking for the freshest bait and 24-hour gas dock, perhaps a reel desperately needs some attention.

Bottom line, never underestimate the importance of fresh intelligence, or a good friend. The camaraderie and adventure will help you to reinvent yourself as a fisherman along the way. “That’s what I love most about this sport and I’m sure everyone you talk to feels the same way,” added Jason Miller.

Safe to say it’s these types of trips that keep some of these road warriors in the hunt for new opportunities for bigger game.

Get out of that funk, man; let’s go make some new friends and big adventures in 2019!

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