I had a pretty good idea we were on to something good when we sold out our very first Marlin University session in February 2001 in Costa Rica. Capt. Bubba Carter, of Tijereta fame, was one of our captains for that first event, and we enjoyed some incredible fishing. All of our 12 students — which was a full class back then — caught several big Pacific sails and had a great time doing so. I pretty much fell in love with Costa Rica and the lovely little Hotel Guanamar on that trip. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful spots we’ve ever visited.
Since that first class, Marlin University has hosted hundreds of eager students wanting to learn the intricacies of the offshore fishing game from some of the best captains and mates in the business. Our list of instructors is a veritable who’s who of the big-game fishing world, with legends like Capt. Peter B. Wright, Capt. Paul Ivey, Capt. Bubba Carter, Capt. Dave Noling and, arguably the world’s best wireman, Capt. Charles Perry. In reality, that’s a very short list of the captains and mates that have shared their knowledge with our students in some of the world’s greatest fishing destinations.
Education with a Smile
The primary focus of every Marlin University session is getting as many bites as possible, so we can teach our students how to operate a lever-drag reel with confidence. In fact, the hardest part of teaching anyone how to billfish is trying to keep the person calm once a billfish appears in the spread. An angler that executes a pitch and drop-back perfectly 20 times in a row in practice suddenly becomes all thumbs when face to face with a hot Pacific sail chewing on the teaser. Therefore, the more bites we get, the more opportunities our students get, the more they get a chance to mess up and try again.
And since fishing is just like anything else — the more you practice, the better you get — by the time students are pitching to their fifth or sixth fish of the day, they’ve usually settled down a bit. If we can get a good bite over the entire four- or five-day trip, then our students have usually gotten used to seeing one and stop freaking out.
Back onshore after the day’s fishing, the education continues with nightly seminars on subjects ranging from boat handling, bait rigging (both live and/or dead baits), lure selection, building hook-sets, outrigger halyard setups, crimping techniques and more. These classes can either be taught by one of the Marlin U instructors or one of the captains and/or mates on the boats we use during the day. We can also tailor a special seminar for those who want to learn something specific and lobby for the class during the day. While all of our instructors are knowledgeable fishermen and boatmen and we try hard to choose outgoing, chatty instructors, teaching isn’t their primary occupation, so the more questions you ask, the more you will learn.
At the same time, there’s no pressure on anyone to attend seminars, dinners or even a day’s fishing for that matter. While we encourage everyone to attend all of the dinners and seminars, if you want to explore the local area one or two nights, there’s no penalty for skipping class at Marlin U.
Boats and Crews
Our foremost concern when picking a spot is getting as many bites as possible, but the ability to get boats during peak season comes in at a close second. We try very hard to get the top local crews for two reasons: 1. It’s never a good idea to come into a fishing spot and not use the local charter boats; they don’t appreciate and may make it hard on you if you ever come back. 2. Local boats usually know the waters and the techniques that work best in that area. With that being said, we are more than willing to utilize private boats when needed and do so quite frequently. This also provides an extra bit of education since the students get a glimpse of how charter and private operations differ.
Most of the spots we fish have local, well-known captains and mates — and we try hard to book those people for our Marlin U sessions. Over the years, we’ve fished with Capt. Peter Bristow in Madeira, Portugal; Capt. Bubba Carter in Costa Rica; Capt. Haydon Bell and Bo Jenyns in Australia; and Capt. Paul Ivey in Venezuela, to name a few.
There are two types of destinations that Marlin U visits: big-fish spots, known for size but not numbers, and great-bite spots, known for the good numbers of bites you can get in a day. Guatemala, Costa Rica and Venezuela are examples of the big-bite places, where we can sometimes get 20 bites or more a day. Bermuda, Madeira and Kona, Hawaii, are more about big blue marlin, where if we get one bite a day, we are doing great. So pick your destinations accordingly. If you’ve already caught a bunch of sails or small marlin and want to improve your heavy tackle techniques, then Australia, Bermuda or the Canary Islands would make the best spots for you. If you haven’t done much billfishing and want a lot of practice shots with the lever-drag reel, then Costa Rica, Guatemala or the Dominican Republic might be better matches.
No matter what destination you chose, always remember that fishing is still fishing, and we’ve all been skunked, even when fishing in the best spots at the best time. As Capt. Peter B. Wright says, “Even the best places aren’t good all the time.”
With that said, we’ve tried to pick some winners for you in 2014. Our schedule is as follows:
- Los Suenos, Costa Rica, Feb. 24 - March 1
- Casa Vieja Lodge, Guatemala , April 6-11
- Miami, Florida , April 28 - May 3
- Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, May 19-24
- La Gomera, Canary Islands, July 5-11
The Costa Rica trip is a Marlin U staple, and we usually catch good numbers of Pacific sails with an occasional blue or striped marlin. Casa Vieja in Guatemala offers up incredible numbers of sails and a surprisingly good number of blue marlin shots as well — at least one of our boats gets a shot at a blue every day. Miami is going to be a new destination for us this year since our students have requested a kite fishing and swordfish destination. Miami offers both, and we’ll be fishing with two of the best captains in the area: Ray Rosher and Bouncer Smith. Cap Cana delivers good numbers of both white and blue marlin; it’s definitely our most prolific marlin spot by far. We will also head to the Canary Islands this year with a trip to La Gomera. This is one of those exotic locales where we hope to run across some big blue marlin. If you want to pull on 130-pound gear, this is the place for you.
Whichever destination you choose, rest assured that our staff of professionals are on hand to take care of every detail of your trip. From the time you arrive to the moment you leave, Marlin U’s staff will be right there by your side to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable fishing adventure. Come join us this year!
For more information, call 1-888-281-5720 ext. 4606, or (407) 571-4606. Additionally, you may use the email form on our site.