Laura Jessen Dominates Los Sueños Ladies Only Series

Reflections of one woman's tournament triumph and what she learned from it

A view of a woman fishing off the back of a sport-fishing boat.
Laura Jessen stands ready to pitch to yet another billfish in the cockpit of Fish Tank. Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor

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There’s nothing I enjoy better than promoting women and kids in fishing. I mean, it’s hard not to get behind anyone with pure drive, genuine passion, or innocent amusement. General sports analogies always seem to work best when describing this obsession of ours, and much like baseball, there’s no crying in fishing. You simply get up, dust yourself off, and try again. There is never failure, only an opportunity to learn. And what you take from that is your own.

Fish Tank’s Laura Jessen isn’t a women’s libber; she’s just a badass. Taking on the entire 2022 Ladies Only tournament fleet of anglers in Los Sueños, Costa Rica, this past season, she managed to not only sweep the one-day series held before each leg of the Triple Crown, but she also crushed the fleet in release points for the Ladies Only event (which is held the day before each leg of the Triple Crown series) solo, with a total tally of 7,400 points, “a full 2,000 points ahead of the closest runner-up,” according to the committee’s press release. I would be remiss if I didn’t reach out to her with a congratulatory attagirl, and to ask her about the experience. After all, this accomplishment (which included three personal grand slams—one each day of the Ladies Only series), even under intense pressure, is a fine example of self-discipline and reflection. One that paid off for Jessen, both personally and introspectively. This is her story:

“At the end of the 2021 season, I told my husband and teammate, Chris, that I wasn’t going to fish the Los Sueños Triple Crown or the Ladies Only series this year because the pressure was just too much for me. I also told him to start looking for a replacement angler. I reassured Chris all the way up until few weeks prior to the tournament that I wasn’t fishing. And of course, perhaps in defiance, the team didn’t attempt to find someone to replace me in time and had only three anglers come tournament time. I told them again to find a fourth, but because no one could commit to all three legs, I agreed I’d pitch on the right side. At least there was that, but still, I was guilted into competing [laughs].

“Heading into Leg One, there were a lot of marlin around but not too many sailfish. Our captain, Ben Horning, mentioned that I should just fish the ladies tournament. I didn’t really want to do it because I knew that I would be taking away a legitimate Triple Crown practice day from my team, but they kept insisting, and I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I agreed. This crew is always up to compete and ready for a challenge, so we fished two long riggers, two teasers and two flat-line pitch baits. I never expected what was to come.

Watch: A belly-strip teaser is a great way to raise marlin and sailfish.

“The Los Sueños Ladies Only tournament is cumulative, so there is no winner of each leg. After Leg One, I finished fifth on time and was tied for fourth with 2,200 release points. The first-place team, Dealer’s Choice, had accumulated 2,500 points. Fishing alone definitely takes some getting used to; I missed a blue that I had set up to pitch off the left teaser that faded off quickly to the right long, and I just couldn’t get there fast enough.

Aerial view of Los Suenos Resort and Marina in Herradura Bay.
The literal gateway to any angler’s billfishing dreams: Costa Rica’s Los Sueños Resort and Marina, located on Herradura Bay. Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor

“We pre-fished again, and all of a ­sudden after Leg Two, I was in first with 5,300 points. I was shocked. We don’t listen to the radio during tournaments, so I had no idea that I had caught more marlin—six of them, plus a sail—than the other boats. The second-place boat, DA Sea, had released three marlin and three sails.

“At this point, I debated bringing on ­another angler for the last leg of Ladies Only merely because the sailfish had shown up in numbers just prior to the tournament. Boats were getting up to 60 bites per day, and I knew that the other teams would be able to successfully catch multiples with a full angling crew, but the guys dismissed it, saying something like, ‘You have gotten this far on your own, and now you need to finish it.’ They must have been right, and luckily for me, by the time the tournament day rolled around, those sails had moved out of bounds. When it was all over, I had gone 14-for-15 on marlin (10 blues, four stripes), 4-for-7 on sails, and scored 7,400 points all by myself.

“I went on to earn the Top Angler ­title in the Ladies Only tournament, Top Overall Angler for Legs Two and Three of the Triple Crown series, and walked away with five trophies, including third place for Leg Three, prompting the crew to request that I ‘quit’ again next year.

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“There is something to be said about taking on a challenge—especially one that you never really gave any thought to before—and getting caught up in the moment. On the other hand, while I very much enjoyed the time I spent with my Fish Tank crew and the support they gave me, it was a little lonely not having the ability to back up another teammate—or to have her back me up. I missed that camaraderie, that connection to what fishing is really all about. I’ll admit that I’m a little intense to tournament-fish with, and even though I didn’t have to worry about letting other anglers down or have to worry about them missing fish, the bottom line was that I really didn’t want to let my crew down.

“Any time an angler on your team has a bad day, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the rest of the team. We have all had days like that, and it’s not fun. Would I do it alone again? I don’t think so. It was an epic, once-in-a-lifetime ­experience. I got lucky, and thankfully, everything fell into place.”

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