• Published:July 25, 2017
  • Share This Article:

No other shark fights like a mako.

The mako shark can go airborne like an angry wahoo, will strike trolled lures like a billfish and devour a live bait like a tuna. It's no wonder this species of shark is the most coveted by anglers.
Ray Kerico, owner of Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park, New Jersey, is a dedicated shark fanatic. His crew on the Big Nutz Required, a 31-foot Bertram owned by Capt. Jeff Crilly, lives up to its name. These guys live to battle big makos up to 800 pounds off of New Jersey’s coast. They’ve perfected their shark fishing tactics and win many of the big tournaments in the area, including the 2015 Mako Mania.

The Big Nutz Required crew uses a simple tackle set up that's tough enough to consistently land sharks over the 400-pound mark, and on one of their best morning trips went 8-for-12 on makos. To become a big-time sharker, there is a method to the madness.

“We always start out by checking the weather patterns, water temperature, currents and eddies,” Kerico says. He looks to sites like FishTrack and Buoyweather for his intel. “We generally look to set up on temperature breaks and water in the 63- to 69-degree range, but look to focus on the magical temperature of 68 degrees. That's where we find most of our activity on mako sharks. If we want to specifically target larger makos, we will look for 65-degree water. We may not get as many hits as in that magic 68-degree water, but the fish are usually bigger.”

Kerico will usually set up their slick around wrecks and ledges from 20 to 50 miles offshore, but if the crew is trophy hunting they will bump out to 60 or 70 miles. Kerico’s drift plan will focus on water depths with a lot of contours and offshore ridges rolling over areas that fluctuate between 180 and 250 feet.

“When we plan out our drift, we like to coordinate with the wind and waves to see if our track will take us over a couple of wrecks in the process. If you can find wrecks that lay on ledges and holes over an expanse of sea bottom, then that’s a good track,” he says. 

Kerico’s set ups include Accurate 80 reels matched with straight-butt Grumpy Custom Calstar rods, rated extra-heavy for 80- to 130-pound class tackle. The crew spools the reels with 100-pound Momoi monofilament. From the running line is a size #9, 540-pound Billfisher stainless steel ball bearing snap swivel tied on via a double Uni Knot.

To create his shark rig, Kerico crimps a 10-foot section of 500-pound Berkley Big Game monofilament leader onto the swivel. He uses a a 300-pound M&M Tackle corkscrew swivel attached to a 5-foot section of American Fishing Wire #15 wire rated at 240-pound test. He uses a haywire twist to attach the wire to the swivel and another haywire to pin on a Mustad 7699D double J-Hook. Depending on how swift the current is running, Kerico will attach a 4- to 12-ounce bank sinker with electrical tape right below the 540-pound snap swivel. It’s a tried-and-true rig that has stood up to some mad mako sharks.

When he arrives on the grounds and decides on a drift, the baits get soaked. “Always chum heavy,” says Kerico. “We’ll drape two bunker chum buckets, one off the bow and one off the stern, and when we pick a spot to try, we will commit to it for the entire day.”

To get the slick established, you want to make sure the water is moving. “A one-knot drift is optimal, so plan your drift plan via the winds and current accordingly,” Kerico says.

Baits usually consist of whole 3- to 4-pound bluefish, or fillets from larger 10- to 15-pound blues. If no fresh bluefish are available, Kerico will use large whole mackerel as baits, and drape each fresh bait with a red or green skirt. He sets out four lines, staggering them at 90, 60 and 30 feet down, with a free-lined pitch bait but keeps it close enough to the boat that he can see it. The lines are floated out on balloons at 100 yards, 70 yards and 30 yards out.

“We like to have the baits set back further than most anglers because even though mako sharks are known as being aggressive and inquisitive creatures, we find we get more hits when the baits are away from the boat and noise,” Kerico says.

Before you leave the dock, plan your sharking adventure in advance and make sure to check the latest weather conditions at buoyweather.com and sea-surface temps at fishtrack.com. Knowing where to start your drift will give you a decided advantage in scoring with big-game makos.

For more info on the Big Nutz Required, visit grumpystackle.com.