Ladies-Only Marlin Expedition to Guatemala Rolls On

The third-annual fishing and learning experience lights up the sailfish bite
Two crewmates pull a large sailfish boatside in the ocean near Guatemala.
Steph Hay came all the way from England to catch her first sailfish, in Guatemala. Courtesy Casa Vieja Lodge / Rum Line

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Being a female in this industry comes with some discretion, good self-control, and a lot of humility, and I’ve found that the angling landscape has drastically changed over the years. Women are now one of the fastest-­growing demographics in offshore fishing, and I find myself encountering more and more of them. They still have to navigate some of the same hurdles that I did, but it’s refreshing to see that some of them just want to be seen as any other angler—not as an anomaly or a glass-ceiling breaker, but as another team member. In order for women to be included in the ­competitive-fishing world, they need to feel comfortable and be open to learning. And although it is true that some people aren’t teachable, I’ve found that if you let down your guard, those unteachable moments can become flashes of self-confidence and enthusiasm.

In my experience, that ­happens fastest when I’m teaching women. The ladies who showed up in Guatemala this past April for one of the most unique learning experiences available crushed it, and my fellow instructor and good friend, Debbi David, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. We are their best cheerleaders, and we have the receipts to prove it.

Day One: Training

While the first day might be the most nerve-racking, as luck would have it, most of the ladies who attended this event had been to a ladies-only Marlin Expedition before. The two newbies, however, were in for sailfish-after-sailfish bites and were instantly folded into the group without missing a beat. The team on Rum Line released 12 of their 20-plus bites, with Dr. Linda Holliday releasing six of those for the high hook that day. The team on Makaira released 15 sailfish from nearly 30 bites, with Susan Foster finally ­getting her first blue marlin—a fish that faded back to her long bait after being raised on the teaser. Each of the ladies went to bed that evening with confidence, ­having landed at least one sail from beginning to end under the watchful eye of the ­instructors.

A lineup of Marlin Expedition's Ladies-Only team outside of a fishing lodge.
The Ladies-Only Marlin Expedition, Class of 2023 Courtesy Marlin Expeditions / Out Your Front Door

Day Two: Refining

The sailfish shots continued into the next day, and the sancocho rate decreased while the release ratios increased. Rum Line released 20 from 30 bites, and Makaira released 13 from 25. With every bite, a new lesson is learned and filed away as just another rung in the dead-bait schooling ladder until it becomes, well, natural. By midday, most of the anglers were starting to figure out for themselves what went right and what went wrong on the bite, and how being alert and ready is just as important as the position that is getting bit. So, we dedicate Day Two to the “practice makes ­progress” mantra.

Day Three: Strategy

No training would be complete ­without some measure of strategy. Fishing is like any other team sport, and everyone wants to do well. Competition drives ambition, so being able to transfer ­individual skills to a collective effort reinforces the ­camaraderie that our sport is based on. The instructors use other sports analogies to break down not only the bite itself but also the theory behind each position. This day turns the attention from an individual focus to a team one. And just as the days before, the sailfish hookup ratio was going up: Makaira released 22 and Rum Line released 20.

Read Next: Learn more about the ultimate immersive fishing experience in the world here.

Day Four: Winning

In true sport-fishing fashion, no trip would be complete without a snafu of some sort. On tournament day, it was boat troubles that would have a normally all-day tournament whittled down to a slightly shorter one. As the ladies on Rum Line transferred to The Hooker offshore, the ladies on Makaira were getting ready for a showdown, even with the bite changing—another plague of tournament fishing. In the end, it was Team Makaira that prevailed with seven sailfish releases for the win, but in my (and Deb’s) book, every single one of these hard-charging women is a winner.

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