A Marlin U session in early march hits the Spring sailfish bite
April 30, 2015
A Plan Comes Together
I love it when a plan comes together.” Those words, spoken by John “Hannibal” Smith on the 1980s television show The A-Team pretty much sum up the most recent Marlin University session held in Costa Rica. We arrived in Los Sueños during the first week of March just in time to capitalize on a pretty good bite happening right out front near the Craters. A less than 20-mile run each way gave us a lot of fishing time — and the fish more than cooperated.
Our always popular Costa Rica session drew a full roster again this year, so we needed four good boats to fish our 16-angler class. I fished aboard Capt. Skeet Warren’s 42-foot Bertram, Bushwacker. Warren is one of those guys who likes to fish all day, and he will go to any length to put his customers on a good bite, no matter how far he needs to run — a rare trait among owner/operators who have to pay for their own fuel. “My thinking is, if I go the extra mile and put them on some good fishing, they will come back and fish with me next year, then the year after that,” says Warren. Capt. Nick Ewald joined us as our newest instructor. Ewald worked as a mate with Bubba Carter on NBC during our very first Marlin U way back in 2001. Ewald returned to fish with Carter as an instructor, this time on Tijereta, and he did a wonderful job. Tijereta is a 43-foot Carolina custom built by Island Boat Works, a perfect fishing platform for a guy who has caught just about every kind of fish that swims — twice. Carter has over 20,000 billfish releases to his credit; 18 world records; a fantasy slam (five billfish species in one day); super grand slams in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; and he was The Billfish Foundation’s Captain of the Year in 2006. He’s pretty much a living legend, and we were proud to have him as one of our captains. Of course, he pretty much smoked the rest of our four-boat fleet during our four days there, and his crew ended up winning our mini-tournament the last day with 10 releases.
Straight Up with a Twist
Charles Perry fished on the charter boat Dream II of the Los Sueños fleet. The wide-beamed 32 Express provided plenty of shade, and with the great weather we experienced during the duration of the class, range never became a problem. That leaves the boat that Peter B. Wright got to ride on. First, let me say that Wright isn’t always the easiest guy to please when it comes to finding a true sport-fishing boat that he enjoys riding on for four days. He’s had a lot of boats in his day, and a few of them he had built, so he knows what makes a good fishing boat. And if the boat doesn’t have what he considers a decent tower, then we will certainly all hear about it. Luckily, Wright absolutely fell in love with the incredibly refurbished Bertram 31, Straight Up with a Twist, owned by Bill McMenemy. “I got on there, and the gear was perfect, the crew was courteous — even the little tower on there was decent. I’m thinking, I’d fish this little boat anywhere in the world for giant marlin,” says Wright. “It’s a great little boat.”
Fishing Was Easy
I often say if we can get 10 billfish bites a day for our four anglers, we should be happy. Ten usually gets everyone at least a couple of chances and gives the “holy-crap-there’s-a-fish-there” jitters time to dissipate. It’s really the hardest thing for first-timers to overcome. Luckily, most of the places where we fish deliver enough bites that our students become confident that they will see another fish shortly, which does wonders for their performance. The more bites you get, the more you can improve. During our first day of Marlin U, Straight Up with a Twist went 13 for 30, Tijereta went 13 for 34, Dream II went five for 13 and Bushwacker was five for 13 as well. Wright said it was his best day ever fishing out of Los Sueños. During the first two days, our boats fairly mirrored one another, with two boats getting into them pretty good, while the other two picked away to get 10 to 15 bites. My first group of anglers came from Oklahoma, and they were used to the few-and-far-between bites common to the fishing out of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. We got the first bite early when a nice sail came up on the teaser while I was showing the guys how to pitch.
How Does That Happen?
We made things a little more difficult on Bushwacker by keeping the pitch baits hanging off the reel on the gunwale instead of fished back in the spread off transom clips like the other boats. This makes the angler actually pitch his bait into the water and free-spool the bait back to the long or short teaser. It might be a little harder, but it makes you operate that drag lever a bit more, which will hopefully translate into more bites down the road. It also teaches you how to keep the rod down with the line and leader in the clean water so that it helps drag the bait back faster. While we missed a few fish when the angler couldn’t get the bait back fast enough, we hoped that the little bit of extra practice under pressure would help a great deal when they needed to drop a bait back for a second or third bite. All of these bites and releases also showed our students a good example of how a professional captain and crew work to get double- and tripleheaders. Turning the boat on the first bite and circling the hooked fish allows you to keep fishing with the baits and teasers on the outside of the turn.
Nobody has ever caught a doubleheader by reeling all their baits in, and our anglers saw how common it is to get bites out of multiple fish by simply turning the boat and keeping the gear in the water. I’m not that good at math, so I can’t give you the most accurate numbers, but after a little tallying back here at home, I figure our 16 anglers had roughly 300 shots over four days and caught about 160 of those fish — not bad for guys just getting the hang of it. Check out marlinuniversity.com to see what trips we have planned for the rest of the year and to keep track of how well our students make out during each session.