Captain Steve Leary

[email protected]

Phone: 774-238-1011
Fishing Cape Cod Bay & Cape Cod Beaches

2020 in Review

A Cape Cod Bay Charter Captain’s Prospective

Part 2 - Situational Awareness/Preparedness and 
the Biggest Bass I Have Ever Encountered

The whale spouted about 100 yards to starboard before arching its back and gliding beneath the surface. This was the first sign of life early this morning late in June as we hunted for mackerel. Deeper into Cape Cod Bay than typical for this time of year, I was adhering to intel from another Charter Captain as we worked between the 80 and 90’ lines searching for bait.

I instinctively turned the boat to starboard slowly approaching the area, cautious to give the whale a wide berth. Gulls began to arrive, and the sounder now revealed schools of mackerel. The whale again spouted and surfaced, obviously feeding.


Positioned in the bow, Ben Mahanna, yelled as he observed mackerel leaping out of the water within 50 yards to starboard. In an instant the sea surface blew up with smashes and swirls of feeding bass and ‘‘flying” mackerel. Ben grabbed a topwater rod, began casting and quickly hooked up in an explosion of white water as a big bass inhaled his offering. Lenny Talalas followed Ben’s lead joining the fray, as they hammered big bass nearly every cast.

To sweeten the pot, a school of Bluefin Tuna estimated to be in the 60-80lb range, surprised everyone as they leaped out of the water and joined the party for a few minutes, although unlike the bass, showed no interest in our lures due to the abundance of live bait

I did a 360-degree scan of the sea surface to assess the situation and saw no other activity for now. Taking note, I logged our position and equally important where we were in the tide. Slack tide was less than thirty minutes away!


I planned the trip such that we’d grab bait during the last hour of the coming tide to position us to the troll live mackerel at select locations later with the dropping tide. Our trolIing setups consisted of Tsunami Trophy Series 6’6” H rods and Shimano TLD20 reels loaded with 45lb lead core, and 15’ of 30lb fluorocarbon snelled to 6/0 non offset Trokar circle hooks.

I always have top water setups prepared and within arm’s reach should a situation like this arise. These setups were comprised of Van Stall VJS70-325 7 foot 325gm rods and Shimano Saragossa 18000 reels loaded with 100lb Cortland hollow core braid and 80lb Basil Wind-On fluorocarbon leaders tied to 9 inch white Docs.

Note: You are probably wondering why such heavy line on the spinning rods. I seldom venture this far into the bay any time of the year without be prepared for Tuna making appearance as was the case this day.


I opted for “Stealth” mode shutting down the engines, electronics and pumps relying upon the waning current and light breeze to move us quietly toward the surface action.

Lenny, Ben and my mate had been landing and releasing 40”+ bass for over 30 minutes. I continued to assess the situation around us and became aware that the activity area was beginning to envelope the boat. Numerous small pods of big bass cruised by within a few feet of the boat just below the surface seemingly at ease and unthreatened.

I was mesmerized by this surreal situation created by the sight and sound of fish crashing surface lures, spraying whitewater and bent rods. The spell was broken with my attention now drawn to something nearing the helm creating a sizable “V” pattern in its wake.

The tuna were back I thought but soon realized it was a huge bass that dwarfed the two bass accompanying it.

As this incredible fish passed by and began a slow turn and dive, the sun’s rays lit it up revealing the unmistakably distinct markings of a striper. I was impressed not only by it’s immense size but more so how strong and healthy it appeared. This girl had been eating right and working out!. Clearly the biggest bass I’ve ever encountered, I estimated it’s size and weight to easily be in the 60”+ and 60lb+ range. Amazing!


By the end of the trip we had landed over 30 fish with all but one fish (34”) released for being over the slot limit. The remainder ranged from 38-48” with the largest fish coming in as Ben’s personal best.

NOTE: I put another check mark in the June column for best month to catch big bass.

Situational awareness is key to successful fishing. Taking a frequent assessment of your surroundings beyond just what the sounder is showing and where you are in the tide cycle is vital. On this particular day scanning the horizon yielded a whale spout which eventually opened the door to an epic morning of fishing.

Situational preparedness is equally important. There’s no doubt you first need to find the fish. Not being prepared with equipment at the ready to cover wherever in the water column they are feeding can make for a long frustrating trip. This day we came prepared to cover all the bases including school bluefin tuna. Just having even one topwater setup aboard every trip can may a huge difference. As I plan trips aboard Wingman, the topwater gear is the first item on the checklist followed by whatever method I’m planning to employ be it trolling, live lining, jigging or chunking.

Captain Steve Leary

WINGMAN Sportfishing