It's Never Good All Of Time

In September, Marlin University visited the world-famous Tropic Star Lodge in Panama.

One of the first things we tell our students at Marlin University is that no matter where or when we go to our favorite hot spot, the fishing can still turn off slow. No place, even the best ones, is good all of the time. Unfortunately, I found myself repeating that same phrase over and over on our last trip to Tropic Star Lodge. Despite the best efforts of our world-class crews, we had a hard time catching them on this trip.

The first day started with a miserable, rainy sky that never stopped spitting on us - it rained for nine hours straight. I actually started to freeze to death about 6 hours into the trip and the last three hours seemed to take forever to pass. We caught one sail right at the tail end of the day - a big bugger that ate a pitched Panama strip. We were lucky to get that one too - our angler set the hook like Bill Dance putting it to a big black bass and jerked the bait out of his mouth two or three times before the persistent fish got stuck.

The weather cleared up a little the next day -- it wasn't sunny, but at least it wasn't raining --and the marlin started to come up. Terry Biting and his boys Clint and Brent caught two blue marlin and we caught another sail on my boat. This sail marked the first billfish for Edison Rijna and it was a classic bite. During the day, we had mystery fish come up and take a shot at one of the teasers and then fade off. Edison seemed kind of perturbed that we were pulling four lures with no hooks in them and said that we should get some hooks out there. I explained that we were pulling teasers to get the fish up close to the boat so that we could get a pitch bait to the fish -- a much more fun and exciting way to hook them. Not 10 minutes later another fish charged into the spread. I saw the fish trying to eat the left rigger bait and called down to the anglers that we had a sail up. Our mate Jacob threw the pitch bait in the water and handed the rod to Edison. As I teased the fish up to the boat the sail grabbed the teaser and almost jerked the rod out of my hand. Jacob ran over to me and snatched the teaser rod out my hand just as the fish pulled free. It quickly resurfaced and started banging the teaser again. As soon as Jacob pulled the teaser out of the water, the fish crossed the wake and piled on the Panama strip bait. This sail meant business too -- it came all the way out of the water on the bite -- about 20 feet off of Edison's rod tip! We caught the fish quickly and Edison was grinning ear to ear. "What do you think of those teasers now! Did you like that bite?" I asked.

The clearing skies and bites of day two had us all anticipating a hot bite the next day, and although the weather turned out to be perfect, the hot bite never materialized for all the boats. I had my good friends Drew and Butch Hart as well as Richard Creed and Matt Thomas fishing with me on the last day and we did get a our shot. We had a little trouble getting live baits that morning so when our last bait died we started pulling four teasers again. Capt. Charles Perry, one of instructors, had brought along a few lures given to him by Canyon Gear. He had rigged them up and offered one of them up to me that morning. I chose the green Thruster. After we had pulled the teasers for about an hour with no joy I asked the mate if I could put the lure out - he said sure and out it went on the left long. About 10 minutes later, a 450-pound blue piled on the lure and started greyhounding toward the boat. The captain roared ahead to keep the line tight and fish stayed on. The proved to be a challenge for Drew on the 50-pound, but he got the fish to the boat in about 40 minutes or so. (It would have taken about 10 minutes if we had him properly set up in a fighting chair with a footrest.)

The last day Edison caught himself a black marlin to win our little mini tournament and you've never seen a happier guy -- he even did a little dance at the awards banquet.

Like always, the service and expertise of the staff and crews at Tropic Star Lodge was exemplary. You won't find a better run -- or more beautiful -- fishing lodge in the world, and if you are unlucky enough to experience a bit of slow fishing, there's no place better to suffer through it. Tropic Star is truly a magical place and we'll be returning as soon as they will let us back in!

P.S. Happy Birthday Albert!