The wind was uncommonly calm Jim Rickman eased the Outer Limits through the sloughs towards Oregon Inlet and turned south, setting a course for his 55-foot sportfisher toward a bluewater hot spot known as The Point.
Expectations were high among T.J. Lawson of Winston-Salem, N.C., and friends who had driven in to do battle with tuna. The previous day’s action had been near spectacular, with several nice yellowfins and two large bigeyes, one estimated at 200 pounds. A few of the men dozed anxiously, but the cabin was filled with excited chatter.
In the cockpit, mate Charles Brown checked the rigs and readied several bags of ballyhoo for fast rebaiting when the expected tuna onslaught began. There was also anticipation of encountering a few marauding white marlin.
After a couple of hours, Rickman eased back on the throttles and Brown went to work setting the spread. Several boats were already on site, and a couple were hooked up and fighting fish. Rickman felt good as he quickly scanned the horizon and located three schools of feeding tuna cutting across the water and jumping after baitfish.
Brown had eight lines in the water before the first strike. The short outrigger line on the starboard side pulled down, and the clip released with a sharp snap, much like the report of a .22 rifle. The rod went down, and the Shimano 50 Wide reel buzzed for a few seconds. Unfortunately, the reel quit buzzing, and the rod tip popped back up, the fish having pulled the hook.
The strike and escape happened again on the port transom line. The ballyhoo on both lines had been hit short and crushed, not cut, the signature of a tuna. A third bite led to a bait being