InTheBite Inside the Lines Episode 5! Providing you with the latest news in big game sportfishing.
InTheBite Inside the Lines Episode 5! Providing you with the latest news in big game sportfishing.
MTU is pleased to continue offering interactive and informal classroom style Captain Training classes at various East Coast Distributor locations.
Participants will have the opportunity to meet local service personnel and learn from MTU factory personnel about the following topics:
The next complimentary class will be offered June 28, 2018 from 9:00am – 3:30pm at Johnson & Towers, located at 2021 Briggs Rd, Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054.
Interested captains, brokers, or vessel owners can register here. Note class sizes are limited and preference is given to current and future Series 2000 M96 captains.
Subscribe or renew to InTheBite Magazine for a chance to win a day fishing with Capt. Glenn Cameron on the Floridian, 54′ Blackwell. The winner will be selected in January 2019, all active subscribers as of then will be entered into the drawing.
by Elliott Stark
Live baiting is founded on a very simple biological concept. Since the very first time two fish swam in the ocean, the big ones have been trying to eat the little ones. In spite of the simplicity of the precept, live bait fishermen represent one of fishing’s most secret of societies. Fine tuning their presentations, crafting marlin bites that are as intimate as they are spectacular, the captains who have perfected the fine art of live baiting have long been viewed as secretive and mysterious.
Their craft—catching big marlin using live bait—has been passed along from person to person in much the same way that Aristotle or Socrates advanced their philosophies. Originating from such exotic ports as Hawaii and Panama, taught from captain to mate in the cockpit of some suspiciously slow-trolling vessel, live baiting has taken the marlin tournament scene by storm. The introduction of live baiting to the Gulf of Mexico has turned the 800-pound blue marlin from a fish of a lifetime to something you need to hang in order to be in the conversation for winning a tournament on any given weekend in the summer.
Given its incredible popularity—increasingly tournament teams need to be proficient live baiters in order to have a chance in kill tournaments, a discussion of when, where and how to live bait effectively may be in order. Far from being a one size fits all proposition, live bait aficionados from different regions illustrate the many nuances to its practice. From Panama to Hawaii to the Gulf Coast, when properly deployed, live baiting is an incredibly effective and efficient way to target large marlin.
The Theory of Live Baiting
While there may be captains who are exclusively “lure guys,” there are few who avow to only live bait fish. The reason for this is simple: live bait fishing is best applied to situations of opportunity. When imagining when and where to empty the tuna tubes, you must think like a fish. Live baiting works best in places that are most likely to hold fish. Regions of the world associated with a tradition of live baiting all have one thing in common—structure.
It is the structure that holds bait and attracts marlin that make live baiting successful. From Panama—the Zane Grey Reef, Hannibal Bank and the shelf, to Hawaii and its ledges, to the Gulf Coast’s oil rigs, natural or manmade focal points in the ocean provide the live baiter’s bread and butter. Even when fishing structure, live baiting is generally reserved for times when the conditions are right.
Captain McGrew Rice, a veteran Kona charter captain, is recognized as one of Hawaii’s authorities on the fine art. “We have a lot of natural ledges here. Certain currents push lots of bait onto the ledges. When this happens, we go inside to catch bait and bring it outside to work the ledges. We then wait for the fish to show up,” Rice describes. Captain of the Ihu Nui, a 45-foot Monterrey, Rice has been fishing these waters since his father bought his first charter boat in 1968. Since 1986 he has averaged between 200-250 days fishing per year.
McGrew’s largest live bait-caught blue weighed in at 1,019. His experience and perspective is intensely valuable in how he determines when to deploy the bridle rigs. “We can live bait year round. When we do it really depends on the current and when the bait shows up. You want bait at 60-100 fathoms to know that the current is working right, you know. You don’t want it at 200-300 fathoms,” Rice explains.
Live baiting is about precision and thoroughness. The art can be conceptualized as methodically working an area that you are certain holds fish. Thinking about fishing in terms of three speeds is helpful. If the water is not what you are looking for, you pick up and cruise away at 30 knots. If the water is promising, but you haven’t located a focal point, lure fishing at 8 knots or so allows you to cover ground while trying to raise fish.
When you come upon the location that has everything you are looking for—bait, clarity, water temperature and maybe even some structure (a floating tree in Panama, for instance)- it’s time to toss the small tuna. Depending on region and approach, live baits are fished somewhere between “in and out of gear” to around three or four knots on the trolling valves. In this approach you are not trying to drive over sticknose, you’ve found the dining room and are waiting for him to take a seat at the dinner table.
Captain Jeff Fay, another authority on Hawaiian live baiting, illustrates the nuance of the theory. Fay, who runs his 37-foot Rybovich Humdinger, has been running charters since 1966. “I’m not really sure who started live baiting in Hawaii. I learned it from a commercial fisherman, Olney Roy. He’d been doing it for years, and that was in the 60s,” Fay describes his introduction to the art. “I live bait on structure—usually at the grounds around the 100 fathom mark. I fish bottom structure on the deep side of the 100-200 fathom mark. I fish the up current side of the structure. On the other side, you’ll get more sharks and less marlin.”
Fay’s best live bait-caught marlin are a 967-pound blue and a black of 953. As for bait preference, Fay prefers an aku—or oceanic bonito. While there are extravagantly appointed modern sportfishers that use swimming pool pumps to circulate a dozen tuna tubes, Fay’s approach is straight forward. “We run a big Ruhl pump. When we need more bait we catch it, because we generally only live bait when bait is available.” Rather than catching bait and running, he generally catches it and deploys it in the same spot. Situation is key.
While most tournament-winning captains guard the secrets of their hook sets and leader dimensions as closely as the KFC original recipe, generally speaking there are some parameters for what to use and how. While Captain Wade Richardson may be too humble to tell you of his incredible skill in the live bait department, his pile of top black marlin release captain awards from TBF and a 2011 payday at Poco Bueno betray his secret. Wade recently concluded a 15-year stint running The Hooker in Panama, splitting time between Piñas Bay, the Pearl Islands and Coiba.
“Unless I’m tournament fishing, I prefer light leader—300-pound fluoro. We snell our hooks, instead of crimping them, because they’ll run straight on the bait. Crimps can roll over and hook the side of the bait. We also use a section of chafe tubing (where the leader meets the hook) if we’re going to kill a fish. You can control them better that way,” Wade explains.
Richardson also described how light leaders without chafe tubing make for an easy way to release fish. In addition to the wear on the leader from the bill, under pressure a weak spot is created in the line where it meets the eye of the hook. Light leaders without chafe tubing permit mates to pop fish off at the hook when exerting pressure on the leader, without worrying about the line breaking prematurely from the drag. For this reason, Richardson doesn’t exert full strength when locking in the snell before fishing.
Richardson carries an abundance of premade leaders in two or three sizes. The leader size is matched to the hook size. The largest is reserved for the biggest baits, with smaller bonito bridled on intermediate leaders and hooks. Matching the hooks to the size of the bait keeps them alive (and not helicoptering) longer.
When it comes to bridling the bait, Richardson prefers a snug fit without space between the bait’s forehead and the shaft of the hook. “You can control the baits better that way,” he says. To keep unruly baits in line, there are a couple of tricks. “If your rigger baits keep crossing, try poking the inside eyes out. They will then keep to the outside. For larger baits that pull out of the clip, you can cut their tail a bit.” This can also make it easier for the marlin to catch the bait, rather than it jumping out of the water or popping out of the clip before the bite.
Few captains have benefitted more in the past few years from the ability to live bait than Captain Jimmy Crochet. Crochet, who runs the 61-foot Viking the Conundrum, won The Billfish Foundation’s first ever Top Captain Award for the Gulf of Mexico in 2014. Based in Orange Beach, Alabama the Conundrum is a staple on leader boards of the Gulf’s biggest tournaments. Crochet credits his induction into the fine art to Captain John Holley of Destin, whom he fished with as an up and coming mate.
“We live bait a good bit while tournament fishing. Generally, we start at about 4 am, jigging to fill up the tubes. At daylight we bridle two baits straight from the jigs so that we start fishing with a full supply of bait. Our normal spread is four baits,” Crochet explains. “We run one close behind the boat (they generally hold this rod or rubber band the line to the reel handle). We put two baits in the riggers and put one out of the center rigger. We put our biggest bait closest to the boat. Sometimes we’ll pull a teaser with a live bait on the end of it too.”
Crochet’s favorite bait for marlin is a yellowfin tuna in the 15-pound range, with a firm bridle. As the Conundrum fishes larger baits, they also tend to feed the marlin longer. Crochet estimates that they will average between 25-50 seconds before putting the reel into gear. “Every fish is different. It really depends on what the fish is doing and how big the bait is, but generally the longer you can feed the fish the better,” he says.
Captain McGrew Rice’s Kona spread generally includes two baits. “We fish one on the surface, about 40 fathoms behind the boat. We fish the other on a down rigger at 150 feet, about 100 feet deep after the angle,” Rice says. For the downrigger, he prefers a rubber band attaching the line to the clip. “Our premium baits are two to five-pound skip jacks,” McGrew describes. “Yellowfin are good, but they have scales. Lots of times a fish will slip on the scales and get tangled up in the leader.” Once bit, Rice generally gives the fish 10-15 seconds, but says “they generally have it down pretty quick.” Rice also favors a snug bridle.
The Fine Art Demystified
Once considered practitioners of a secret, potent form of fishing magic, the wizardry that is well-executed live bait fishing is taking the marlin world by storm. Witnessing a captain and crew that are experts in the fine art is a sight to behold. Sure, big fish have been trying to eat little fish since there were fish in the ocean. Live baiting, however, is more than just exploiting a biological imperative. When executed correctly, it is a fine art.
HATTERAS YACHTS ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH FISH TANK SPORTFISHING
World-Class Anglers Will Help Design Next Generation Hatteras Sportfishing Yacht
NEW BERN, N.C. – JUNE 12, 2018 – Hatteras/Cabo Yachts LLC (“Hatteras Yachts”), a world leader in the construction of convertible sportfishing and luxury motor yachts from 45 to 105 feet, announces a partnership with sportfishing couple Chris and Laura Jessen, world-renowned anglers and owners of Fish Tank Sportfishing. Along with their captain, Ben Horning, the Jessens will collaborate with Hatteras to design a next-generation sportfishing yacht.
“We’ve been fishing on our Hatteras GT63 since 2012, and we chose Hatteras again because we have had a tremendous experience,” said Chris Jessen. “They build a high-quality boat at Hatteras with amazing attention to detail. We’re honored that our ideas and designs will live beyond our boat and influence the legendary Hatteras Sportfishing line.”
“Hatteras is thrilled to collaborate with Fish Tank Sportfishing,” said Hatteras Yachts President and CEO Kelly Grindle. “Chris, Laura, and Captain Ben have incredible expertise, have logged thousands of hours on the water, and have released countless fish. We will be designing a boat where every detail has been considered by world-class anglers.”
The partnership officially begins today. In the coming months, Hatteras will work closely with the Jessens and Captain Horning to design the new boat. Caterpillar Marine will also be a key partner in the building of this new sportfishing yacht.
For more information on Hatteras sportfish yachts, visit www.hatterasyachts.com/sportfish.
Follow @hatterasyachtsnc and @fishtanksportfishing on Instagram for regular updates on the partnership between Hatteras and Fish Tank Sportfishing.
As of June 11th, 2018, 656 dolphinfish have been tagged and released throughout our tagging zones by 66 captains in 170 outings. Of those releases, 8 are recaptures recorded along the U.S. East Coast, 2 are return migrants from fish released last August, and 4 are satellite tags movements. In the first week of June alone, the Killin’ Time IIFishing Team, led by Captain Don Gates, tagged and released 207 dolphin, 5 of which have been recaptured (as of 6/11). This effort alone represents a 2.4% recapture rate. To read more about movements of dolphin along the U.S. East Coast over the past few months, click here.
Courtesy of Dolphin Research Program
TAMPA, Fla., June 13, 2018 — Florida-based Bertram Yachts announces the debut of its second new model under the ownership of industrialist and yachting enthusiast Beniamino Gavio. The Bertram 61 is designed with the durability and quality of the original battlewagons, while utilizing the most advanced technologies and techniques, to build a better Bertram. The new model sets a new standard for Bertram and competitors in its class.
Since its inception in Tampa, Fla., Bertram has completed seventeen 35s, with delivery across North American, Puerto Rico, Japan, Italy, Bermuda, and Panama. The 61 prototype will debut in Fort Lauderdale, July 2018. To-date, reservations on hull numbers two through five have been placed.
The hull, designed by Michael Peters Yacht Design, is projected to provide top-of-the-line performance and speed, with twin CAT32s, 1900-HP diesels. A Seakeeper 16 gyro stabilizer unit will also be found in the engine room, just aft of the engines. Projected to eliminate 95% of the boats roll, the unit is critical to providing comfort for trolling anglers and cruisers alike.
“Our boats are designed to handle the worst of conditions with ease. Nothing about that has changed. Standardizing the Seakeeper is just one of the advanced features we’re adding to the boat, to take that next step into unprecedented quality of sportfishing boats. If we’ve got a hull that can go through anything, we need to make sure our customers are comfortable when they get there – and it is a testament to how we take care of owners,” says Tommy Thompson, VP Sales and Product Development.
Construction features an infused vinylester solid fiberglass hull bottom with Kevlar centerline and strake reinforcements. At full-load, the projected displacement is 92,450 lbs.
The spacious cockpit allows anglers to maneuver quickly and seamlessly, when the bite is on. The center console helm gives great visibility and affords a comfortable ride for more than just a couple passengers. The exterior is designed to take on the most rugged conditions, while the open salon-galley layout and full-beam master stateroom, are just a few of the features that make the interior one of luxury and comfort.
“In the spirit of Bertram’s relaunch, the salon wrap around windows are actually another great blast-from-the-past but done now using modern technology and virtually military grade glass. These windows are amazing,” says Thompson. “I can’t wait for everyone to see the view from inside a 61 Bertram.”
by Elliott Stark
With all of modern Costa Rica’s ease and amenity, it is easy to forget that Costa Rica hasn’t always been this way. The infrastructure enjoyed by residents and tourists are a relatively modern innovation. The first wave of traveling sportfishers came to the country in the 1980s. What these pioneers encountered upon their arrival was magical— virgin fisheries and rugged, untouched terrain. Sportfishing consisted of pockets of four boats here, six boats there, fishing without GPS or advanced bottom machines (rather as Captain Bubba Carter says— “using paper sounders and taking landmarks off of mountains.”)
What these early adopters may have lacked in marinas, logistics and the modern concept of civilization, was more than made up for in adventure. The incredible sailfish and black marlin bites is the stuff of legend. This is story of how Costa Rica of the late 1980s came to be the Costa Rica of today. It is told by those who were part of its evolution. If you do not find this fascinating, either I need to stop writing (for lack of skill) or you need to take up golf (because you do not like fishing)!
The Early Days
Bubba Carter is widely recognized as a central figure in the 1980s sportfishing scene. “My first time in Costa Rica was to Flamingo in 1985. We chartered Tom Bradwell on the Barbarella. At the time, there were four or so boats in Flamingo,” Carter reminisces. “I came down with Charlie Cippola from Canada the next year. He had a 43-foot Merritt and wanted to try something different. It started out as kind of a dare.”
“‘Can you get the boat down there?’ Charlie asked. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘there’s water between here and there…’” There was no GPS, no marinas and no range. Our first trip took 19 days from West Palm Beach to Flamingo,” Carter describes. “We had 300 gallons in deck and 300 gallons on deck. We had a range of about 350 miles… maybe 450 if we were chugging. We were so loaded down on our first trip that the tuna door started taking on water when we left he marina.”
Carter’s route would become a familiar one to the many who have since followed. He island-hopped his way through the Caribbean, transited the Panama Canal. From Panama City, he ran to Golfito; from Golfito to Flamingo. “At the time Golfito had a four-slip marina. Quepos had the banana boat pier. Tamarindo had four or five boats. Cocos had a couple, too. If everybody showed up all at one place for a tournament, there might have been a dozen boats,” says Bubba of the entire Costa Rican fleet.
“Flamingo was the place to be back then. You could fly into Tamarindo, but you’d have to chase the cows off the runway first,” Carter recalls. “It was kinda clannish back then. The group in Golfito and the guys in Flamingo, nobody really liked each other back then,” Carter recalls with a laugh.
Carter’s operation provided a testing ground for other of Costa Rica’s early entrants. One was Captain John Skubal, who now works as a yard manager at Merritt. “I headed to Costa Rica in 1990 for a couple of years. We were fishing out of Flamingo aboard the Ambush, a 46-foot Merritt,” Skubal recalls. “The fishery was unbelievable, everything else was pretty primitive. It was kind of jungle rules.”
“Flamingo was very quaint back then. There was one floating dock. You either tied up to it or anchored offshore. There were a couple of hotels, a couple of restaurants and basically that was it,” Skubal says of the old days.
Another of CR’s early adopters, and perhaps one of sportfishing’s nicest individuals, is Captain John LaGrone. His first trip to the country was in 1993 running the Magic for Tim Choate. “Flamingo was a thriving fishing village at the time. That was its heyday. Flamingo had a marina and a fuel dock and a maintenance section,” the veteran captain recalls. “Logistics were easy. The food truck came one day, the vegetable truck came one day, the coke truck came one day and the beer truck came another. Nobody drank bottled water then.”
Bubba Carter describes the early days of the fishery with a characteristic ease and understatement. After all, when you’ve done and seen as much as Carter, you don’t need to embellish anything. “The fishing was awesome. Now there are a lot more boats with a lot more tech, which make it seem good. Back then there were three or four boats fishing landmarks off the mountains. We had paper sounders. There were acres of sailfish—and the fishing was better.”
“Over 11 years, we averaged over 1,000 billfish per year. That was fishing around 200 days per year. Back then, many of the charters were record fishing on two and four pound. It wasn’t the numbers fishing like it is today,” Bubba describes. “My best day in the early days was 52 sails. My best year was 1,444 in 204 days. Last year was my best year overall—2,200 sails and 318 blues (in 46 days) in 198 days.”
While the fishing in Costa Rica was great then, as it is now, there were differences. John LaGrone provides context, “The size and number of sails and blue marlin were much different. In those days, it was very uncommon to catch a sailfish under 100-pounds. In the 1990s, they averaged 100-125 pounds. An average day was 15 sails and two blue marlin,” he describes.
“It was easier to target a black for your marlin— fishing the humps out of Flamingo. The average black was around 400-pounds, with some bigger fish around. You couldn’t fish ballyhoo for more than five minutes because there were lots and lots of dorado. Big dorado, too. Another difference was the size and amount of yellowfin tuna – there were lots of them. You could target the schools of yellowfin by following travelling birds. This was very common and there were lots of big tuna.”
“Some of the best days I had were a grand slam with my wife. We caught 35 sails, a black and a stripe. Fishing out of Cocos Island, we had 18 slams and two super slams in 43 days. The numbers were not the important part. It was the numbers, size, and variety of the fishery. I can’t say that the fishing was better then than now, but there were bigger fish before,” recalls LaGrone.
A Florida Keys native, Captain Randy Rode made his first fishing trip to Costa Rica in 1982 aboard a 31-foot Rampage. His first day of trolling, Rode caught eight big sails and two blue marlin in four hours. The experience was such that Rode shortly thereafter purchased a half acre tract in the town of Nosara for $1,200. Nosara, then with a population of 150 people, is located about 10 miles north of Carillo. Rode kept his boat in the half moon-shaped Garza Bay that was protected at its mouth by a stretch of reef with a gap in the middle. Getting to Nosara from San Jose in those days was a six to seven-hour drive that required crossing 13 rivers. Rode estimates that there were approximately 1,000 people living in the region at the time.
Randy ran his operation, Rode Runner Sportfishing, for the next 15 years. Rode placed moorings made of heavy equipment tires in the bay. He loaded and offloaded guests and fishing supplies to and from his boats via panga beach-launchings. For bait, he would fly 150-quart coolers full of Keys-caught ballyhoo down from the states. “In those days, you could bring anything down on the airplane,” Rode says.
The Story of Los Sueños
Just as the nation’s incredible fisheries draw tourists from around the world today, it was the great fishing and lifestyle attributes of Costa Rica that attracted investment and development. The story of how Costa Rica of the early 1980s became the Costa Rica of today cannot be told without first relating the story of Los Sueños. While there exist many other developments in the nation, Los Sueños Resort and Marina has been transformative. Just how impactful has Los Sueños been to the Costa Rica? Mr. William Royster is the founder, CEO and President of Los Sueños. He was also the man behind the vision for the project.
“In 1991 I decided to take a sabbatical. I had recently purchased a 92-foot long range sportfisherman. The marlin fishing is not great in southern California so he headed south in January of 1991, fished Mexico and Mag Bay. We kept heading south and got to Acapulco. We decided we didn’t want to go back so we went to Costa Rica. It is 1,100 miles from Acapulco to Playa del Coco, Costa Rica,” Mr. Royster recalls.
“We explored Costa Rica and kept moving south to get out of the Papagayo winds. We arrived to the tip of Guanacaste—around Nicoya. We were fishing about 60-miles offshore when we caught a roughly 800-pound marlin. At the time, there was not much in Costa Rica. We came into Herradura Bay and celebrated,” he says. Anchored in Herradura Bay celebrating the fish of a lifetime, Royster looked upon the coastline.
“I saw the Los Sueños property. It was an 1,100-acre cattle ranch. There was no infrastructure. I owned a large general engineering company with experience in development. I had the skillset,” Roster describes. “I contacted the owner of the property and began performing due diligence—country research, currency analysis. This was not my first development project, but it was my first time internationally,” Royster says.
“At the time there were around 120,000 travelers to Costa Rica each year. I scratched out the concept on a piece of paper. Over the next two years I travelled throughout Latin America to research resorts. We started predevelopment in 1994.” In 2015, an estimated 2.6 million tourists visited the country.
In the early 1990s Costa Rican law prohibited development within 50-meters of the coastline. Coastal construction setbacks are standard in many parts of the world, but make development of marinas a difficult task. “We had to legislate law through the Costa Rican congress to allow access within 50-meters of the coastline,” Royster describes. “In 1998, the president signed the Marina Law. It was the first time that a law was passed by 100% of the Costa Rican congress. We are pretty proud of that.”
“Since that time, we’ve grated over four million cubic meters of rock for the breakwater,” Mr. Royster details, providing scope of the project. “We put in all of the infrastructure—it’s similar in scope to the backbone of a small city. There’s a hook up for telecom and power at the gate, but we manage everything else.”
“In 2001, we created a completely vertically integrated company—everything is in house. We operate all restaurants, own the hotel, which is managed by Marriot. We own everything else,” he says. Vertical integration describes the fact that Los Sueños controls all variables of the construction, development, landscaping, etc. on the property. This integration provides quality control and the ability to deliver products and services as demanded by the market.
Today Los Sueños is the setting for 600 residences (the output is to be capped at 1,000 units—with 600 of the 1,100-acres of the development to remain rainforest in perpetuity). The marina contains 200 wet slips and 118 dry slips. The marina is at 100% occupancy, with some 64% of occupants also owning a home within Los Sueños.
When asked about the evolution of the property, Royster is reflective. “The Master Plan has been achieved. In many ways, we’ve achieved more than I thought. The demand has created a higher end product than we imagined. The profile of our customer has driven the increase.” Whereas Royster initially envisioned units ranging from $250,000 to $750,000, demand for larger, nicer outputs have steered production to units ranging from $750,000 to five million. “A vertically integrated company allowed us to control all of the variables and to steer to where the market dictated. People wanted bigger, nicer products,” Royster says. Los Sueños has delivered.
Modern Costa Rica
The Costa Rica of today is a veritable fishermen’s paradise. The elements of mystery, danger and isolation of the mid-1980s have been replaced by amenity and ease of access. The isolated natural bays that once sheltered handfuls of adventurous souls—fishermen, hippies and surfers— have been replaced by marinas, hotels, and tourism infrastructure capable of comfortably hosting even the least adventure-minded of individuals.
How does the modern fishery compare to the way it once was? Captain Terry Robinson provides a great bit of perspective on the relationship between the fishing then and now. Robinson’s first season in Costa Rica was in 1995 when he worked the cockpit on the Tyson’s Pride under Captain Timmy Hyde. “The fishing was fantastic. We fished what we knew. We fished the areas with infrastructure. The biggest change is that now there are so many boats and marinas. In the early days, you just wonder what was out of reach,” Robinson recalls.
“In the early days, we fished shallower, closer to the beach or on the edge. We caught more blacks. As more boats came, fishing expanded offshore. Now there’s no rhyme or reason for where fish congregate—it’s about finding bait and birds. Today radar, range, and gyro binoculars make it so much easier to find things offshore.”
“Today most of the winning boats in the Los Sueños tournaments are now fishing the 50-mile boundary. You just wonder what we would have found out there with a larger fleet in the early days,” Robinson ponders intriguingly. The answers to such questions are indeed the thing of legend.
The pockets of four boats here and six boats there described by Bubba Carter are now world class marinas in Golfito, Quepos, Los Sueños, Flamingo and other locations. The sportfishing fleet in Costa Rica these days compares favorably to Palm Beach or most anywhere else in the world. The flavor of Costa Rica may be different, but the charm remains and it is undeniable.
How about the fishing? In nine days of fishing, 43 boats fishing the three Los Sueños Signature Series Tournaments released 6,700 billfish. Yes, 6,700—that comes to around two fish per minute of fishing. Then there are the FADs. The numbers of blue marlin released out of Golfito are most normally reserved for days of dorado fishing, not targeting stick nose.
It is always tempting to long for the past. For most anyone who has ever fished, there is a desire to experience what captains Bubba Carter, John LaGrone and others witnessed in the early days of Costa Rican sportfishing. The paths blazed by the likes of Skubal, Rode, Royster and others have had the effect of opening Costa Rican sportfishing opportunities to the world at large. Pura Vida is open for business. While there are many differing opinions on the matter, one thing can be said with confidence. Costa Rica was… and Costa Rica is one hell of a place.
Reel Addiction Wins the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic with 796.9-Pound Blue Marlin
After a pursuit lasting more than a decade, Team Reel Addiction finally topped the field of 117 boats to win the 2018 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic. Angler Chase Pate of Pensacola, Florida, Capt. Scooter Porto, owners Rocky and Laurie Jones, and mates Zach Taylor, Seth Brennan and Nate Dennis boated a 796.9-pound blue marlin after a 30-minute fight Saturday morning. The largest marlin of the week earned the team $405,705 for the top tournament award and optional entries. The overall tournament prize money was nearly $2.2 million.
“Winning this one was on my bucket list,” Rocky Jones explained before Sunday’s awards breakfast. “We won top release boat 12 years ago and I’ve been trying to win the whole shooting match ever since. We finally did it!” Reel Addiction, a 56 Viking and regular on the Gulf big-game circuit, is based in Pensacola Beach. With the win, the team also earned an invitation to compete in the 2019 Offshore World Championship in Quepos, Costa Rica.
Team Supreme, with anglers Alex Krake, Chris Howell and Capt. Chase Lake, didn’t go home empty-handed, even though their Friday night marlin weighed 739.1 pounds. The 76 Viking from Destin went back out and caught a 156.6-pound yellowfin to boost the overall winnings to $313,115 for the second-place tournament award and optionals.
Pearl took the third-place tournament award and pocketed $122,970. Angler Edgar McKee and Capt. Shawnie Clemons and the team aboard the 48 Viking based in Orange Beach boated a 611.5-pound blue to earn that payout.
The Catch and Release Division was close and final standings were determined by time of catch. Relentless Pursuit (Capt. Robbie Doggett), was the overall winner with 1,800 points (three blue releases), earning a check of $265,050. The 95 Jim Smith calls New Orleans home. Done Deal (Capt. Jason Buck) came in second in the division, also with 1,800 points. Angler Katie Gonsoulin took top Lady Angler honors and the team won $133.830. Money Shot (Capt. Dale Bergeron) was the third-place release team with 1,200 points, good for a $12,000 payday. A Work of Art, Born2Run and Wynsong also won optional money in the release division. Ryan Cooper, fishing on CE, was named the top junior angler based on his two white marlin releases.
Angler Robeau Whibbs and the family/friends team aboard Swee Pea, a 50 Topaz from Pensacola, captured the top tuna. Their yellowfin weighed 182.3 pounds, good for $24,000. No tuna topped the current Mississippi record of 205.8 pounds, so the special $500,000 bonus went unclaimed. Bennie Goldman and his team on Reelentless, a 37 Freeman from Dauphin Island, took second place tuna honors with a 172.8 yellowfin. That fish was worth $139,725 in category and optional money. Fourteen-year-old Sawyer York, competing aboard First Choice, a 60 Hatteras based in New Orleans, whipped a 166.3-pound yellowfin tuna to earn his team $90,585 in prize money. Triple Threat also won optional prize money for its 159.2 tuna.
Anthony Stauffer (Hayride) boated the largest swordfish, a 144.1 broadbill, good for $39,600 in tournament and optional money. Matt Carpenter, on Long Straw, was second with a 125.2-pounder ($20,160), followed by Anthony Lopez on Titan Up (123.5 pounds/$26,940).
Johnny Moore, fishing aboard Alma-Ann, a 48 Cabo (Capt. Nick Jones), made MGCBC tournament history when he finally landed the new record dolphin after a two-hour waiting game. The 57.2-pound bull earned the team $66,750. Kevin Berry, on Deadline, a 52 Viking, was second with a fishing weighing 45.2 pounds ($18,000), while Michael Burroughs whipped a 44.6-pound dolphin for Team Quicktime ($37,650). Amnesia, Big Torch, Heads N Tails and Questionable Judgement also took home optional prize money for their dolphin.
The wahoo this year didn’t quite meet normal Classic averages but were respectable fish nonetheless and earned nice payouts. Lined Out and Jeff Dees caught the largest, 61.4 pounds, good for $48,300. Seament’s Doug Lake was second with a 48.5 wahoo ($37,125) and Neal Foster, betting heavily on Team Intensity, took home $82,425 for three entries in the optional categories.
“We had great weather and some exceptional fish brought to the scales this week,” said Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “I’d like to congratulate our champion Reel Addiction and thank all the teams, our wonderful sponsors and my staff for making this 22nd annual event so special. We hope you’ll join us again next year from June 3-9, 2019.”
The Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel was this year’s tournament host. High Roller sponsors included the City of Biloxi, Release Marine, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gorenflo’s Tackle and Marina Store and Yeti Coolers.
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