Twenty-five years ago, fishing buddies Marco Zablah and Paco Saca tossed around the idea for a tournament as a way to attract anglers to their home country of El Salvador. Zablah had just completed the Bahia del Sol resort and marina, located on the country’s beautiful stretch of beaches known as the Costa del Sol, less than 30 minutes from the international airport in El Salvador. The stage was set for the El Salvador International Billfish Tournament.
This year’s anniversary event has withstood the test of time and nature, showcasing the exceptional fishing off this Central American nation’s coast. Day One kicked off with a breathtaking sunrise over the volcanoes that line the coast, as the fleet headed for the grounds offshore. By lines out, Zablah’s Happy Hour team, fishing aboard his 41-foot Pursuit, was the clubhouse leader in the Billfish Division, with 1,700 points for one blue marlin and 12 sailfish releases, good for 1,700 points. Saca’s team also had a great day, tagging and releasing three blue marlin on his 45-foot Rampage, Sandy-ita, and 1,575 points.
Day Two saw the Guatemalan team on The King and I begin their climb to the top of the leaderboard. Fishing aboard their 50-foot Ocean Yacht, Capt. Victor Ceballos, boat owners Adan Ramos and Andres Morales, and mates Ronal Morales, Sergio Alvarado and Allejandro Bonilla tallied 21 sailfish as the top boat for the day, moving into the lead with 3,100 points. Amejaye, an entry from Costa Rica, released 16 sails and a blue marlin, and Monique released 12 sails and one marlin as well. Saca added another blue marlin release to remain at the top of the leaderboard in the Marlin Division. The tournament’s final day would be a shootout.
Despite a late run by the teams fishing aboard Portovenere and Fortuna 1, Sandy-ita held on to win the Marlin Division, releasing two more on the third and final day to tally 3,125 points. Anglers Jorge and Javier Saca, Tony Seicentos and Oscar Diaz made the most of every bite, going 6-for-6 on blues up to 400 pounds in three days. Three of those fish were caught on a Marlin Magic Captain’s Choice lure in purple over black on the right corner; two were caught on a Black Bart Zulu in pink mackerel over white on the left corner; and one would be released after eating a Black Bart Mini 1656 slant in oceanic blue over white. Capt. Gian Innocention led his Portovenere team to five marlin releases to finish in second with 2,550 points, and Capt. Juan Saade’s Fortuna 1 team scored four blue releases for third and 2,025 points.
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In the Billfish Division, The King and I posted another 13 sails, plus a bonus blue marlin, for a total of 4,900 points. This team has come a long way in just a few seasons, making the commitment to improve with each one, and their 15-year-old junior angler, Juan Pablo Morales, is also a top-notch angler. Since their start, The King and I has won daily money in several Central American tournaments and are the defending champs in El Salvador, so it was no surprise they had another good run this year.
Landing in second place was another Guatemalan boat, Intensity, captained by Mike Sheeder. He hosted a team representing the National Sportfishing Club of Guatemala, which released a total of 26 sailfish and three marlin to score 4,100 points. And finishing in third was Josef Arguedas’ Monique with 3,900 points from 29 sails and two marlin.
A total of 191 sailfish and 43 marlin were released in this anniversary event, proving this fishery is just as good today as it was 25 years ago.