Crowning the 2023 Offshore World Champions

A down-to-the-wire finish on the final day results in victory
A large pacific sailfish jumping out of the ocean at the 2023 Offshore World Championship.
While there was a better-than-usual blue marlin bite this year, Pacific sailfish were the key to victory. Hannes Ribbner

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In perhaps the most hotly contested tournament in recent memory, this year’s Costa Offshore World Championship presented by Continental had all the excitement we’ve come to expect from this event: a team representing the host marina nearly going wire-to-wire; another team of seasoned veterans who refused to back down from a challenge, even after scoring just a single sailfish release in the slowest-of-slow starts; and a top angler who kept his cool after four days of grinding it out in the cockpit. All of this happened amid the tropical paradise of the central Pacific and the scenic ­community of Quepos, Costa Rica, perched on the coastal edge of the rainforest of Manuel Antonio National Park.

This year’s storied event took place April 16-21, 2023, where a total of 29 teams comprised of 138 anglers representing 19 nations headed to sea to determine who would earn the title of Offshore World Champions. Each team had to qualify in order to participate by winning one of more than 75 qualifying ­tournaments around the world, where they would then receive an ­invitation to participate in Costa Rica, representing their qualifying event as well as their home nation. This year the OWC hosted teams from Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Panama, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Collectively, the 2023 OWC angler teams and their guests traveled a total of more than 750,000 miles to attend this ­international ­championship—the equivalent of circling the globe more than 32 times. Marina Pez Vela in Quepos was the ­center of the action each day, while the ­luxurious Hotel Parador was the host resort for the ­participants and event staff.

Rocky and Judy Franich, Paul Steigerwald, and Karen and Roger Comstock, winners of the 2023 Offshore World Championship with four blue marlin and 14 sailfish releases. Courtesy OWC / Out Your Front Door

Adding to the prestige of this event, the professional team from Sport Fishing Television—the award-winning fishing, travel and adventure series—was on hand throughout the week, shooting all the action on, above and below the sea, as well as back on land, for a four-part series that will air on Discovery Network, Outdoor America, and additional media distribution channels.

As the tournament kicked off under perfect conditions, the team representing the Marina Pez Vela Open tournament—Kevin Gannon, Saso Apostolovski, Bost Jan Leben, Roman Ursic and Boris Piculjan—were off to a fast start. They released three blue marlin and three sailfish to take an early lead in the tournament. In fact, they would not relinquish their first-place position until shortly before the call for lines out on the fourth and final day of competition, thanks to some consistent fishing throughout the week.

Meanwhile, the team of Karen and Roger Comstock, Rocky and Judy Franich, and Paul Steigerwald­—representing Mexico’s International Roosterfish Tournament­—had a lackluster start to the event with just one sailfish release on Day One. They rebounded incredibly well on Day Two though, remaining in striking distance going into the fourth and final day. This team has competed in some form in the OWC for more than 15 years, so they are certainly no strangers to what it takes to win at this level of competition.

Team Marina Pez Vela Open took home second-place honors with four blues, 13 sailfish and a 39-pound dorado. Courtesy OWC / Out Your Front Door

Also in contention was one of three teams ­representing Brazil, this one from the Torneio de Peixes de Bico tournament, and consisting of anglers Evandro Soares, Nilo Cottini Filho, Gustavo Santos and Walter Muller. The three teams traded shots on the ­leaderboard throughout the final day of competition, and it wasn’t until the final videos had been verified that the winners were announced: The International Roosterfish Tournament team was crowned the 2023 Offshore World Champions. In four days of hard-fought competition, they released a total of four blue ­marlin and 14 sailfish, good for a total of 4,800 points and the win.

“We fish and we race, and that’s about it,” Karen Comstock says. “In racing, you always take it one round at a time. You can’t even think about that final match until you make it through the qualifiers, and that’s what we did here. Every day we just concentrated on doing our best, and it worked out for us.” Understandably ecstatic during the awards, the team ­collected their trophies and ­custom gold champion’s rings as the ­reality of the occasion finally began to sink in. They will also receive lifetime invitations to defend their title in future Offshore World Championship tournaments.

In third place was one of several teams representing Brazil—the Tourneio de Peixes de Bico—with two blues, 16 sails and two weighed dorado. Courtesy OWC / Out Your Front Door

While it was surely disappointing to lead the tournament each day and then come up just short in the end, the Marina Pez Vela Open team did well representing the host marina and enjoying the home-field ­advantage throughout the week. They released four ­marlin and 13 ­sailfish and weighed a 39-pound dorado—the heaviest of the tournament, landed by Piculjan—to score a total of 4,639 points. The Brazilians rounded out the top three with 4,262.02 points from two ­marlin, 16 ­sailfish and two weighed dorado.

The event’s top angler, David Fingland, offered a good representation of the international flavor of the Offshore World Championship. A Bahamian by birth, he was fishing in Costa Rica with the Bermudian team representing the 2003 Offshore World Champions. Fingland released two blue marlin and six sailfish to hoist the event’s prestigious Top Angler trophy during the awards presentation. The second-place angler was Yves LeCourt from Team Mauritius, with four blue marlin and two sailfish, and the third-place angler was James Thackeray fishing for the Fiji Classic team with one blue marlin, six sailfish and a 46.1-pound yellowfin tuna. This year, participating teams released a total of 267 sailfish and 46 blue marlin for an average of 10.79 billfish per team.

The 2024 Costa Offshore World Championship will take place April 14-19. For a list of qualifying tournaments and more information on competing in this world-class event, visit offshore

2023 Costa Offshore World Championship by the Numbers

  • Participating Teams: 29
  • Anglers: 138
  • Nations Represented: 19
  • Total Miles Traveled to Attend: 750,000+
  • Total Sailfish: 267
  • Total Blue Marlin: 46
  • Average Billfish per Team: 10.79
  • Heaviest Tuna: 46.1 pounds
  • (James Thackeray, Fiji Classic)
  • Heaviest Dorado: 39 pounds (Boris Piculjan, Marina Pez Vela Open)
  • Top Charter Boat: Spanish Fly, capt. walton smith

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