Fishing Costa Rica Contest Trip – Race To Costa Rica Contest
Each year the BD crew and a core group of industry partners offers a free trip to one lucky angler. A simple contest drawing on the BD Outdoors website that has no strings attached, just a chance at an all-expense paid bucket list trip for fishing Costa Rica. The Race To Costa Rica was the fifth year of the most popular contest on BD and the entries came in by the thousands.
Only one person could be chosen and this time it was Eric Fosbender of St. Petersburg, Florida. Eric’s name was picked from the masses by a random number generator and when he received the news, he said “When the call came through that I’d won, I almost crashed my car… Ok not really, but had no idea what to think or feel. Just giddy really. I’ve never really won anything before. I decided to enter on a whim; I figured maybe one day it would be my turn.” I met up with Eric in Orlando and we traveled together to San Jose, Costa Rica. It was a very simple process to make our way through customs and into the waiting care of our driver from Los Sueños Resort who whisked us away to paradise.
Los Sueños Resort and Marina encompasses 1,100 acres of Costa Rica’s lush landscape. The resort offers everything modern travelers and homeowners could need. There are almost 600 private residences built to date and many more on the way in this incredible planned resort community. The marina offers over 316 wet and dry slips to boaters from around the world who want a safe and functional place from which to seek their fun on the water. The Marina Village has a wide variety of restaurants and shops that feature everything from fine dining to a burger at the bar. There is even a Marriott Hotel and an 18-hole championship golf course. Los Sueños Resort has no lack of things to do and every bit of it is immaculately maintained and well thought out.
We arrived under the cover of darkness, but we could still tell it was lush out there. I forgot to mention that it was January and the temperature was a perfectly balmy mid-70’s.
Our host, Will Drost of Maverick Sportfishing and the crew from Los Sueños Resort had us all set up in very comfortable condos that are available to rent from private owners on the resort property. Christian Rojas, Director of Fishing and Tour Operations with Maverick, took great care of us and all the details it takes to pull off a flawless trip.
Only a postcard could have prepared us for the incredible scene that unfolded before us as the first light of day spilled out of the Pacific and over the jungle mountains to the north. A fresh cup of coffee and a view like that is something I could get used to really quick. We were looking out over the bay where the Los Sueños Marina is situated in a sheltered cove on the edge some of the best fishing in the world.
From this spot, we would soon be loading onto the latest and largest of the Maverick Sportfishing Charter Fleet, the Open Fly. This brand new 50-foot sportfish is made just down the road by Maverick Yachts and their crew of fine craftsmen who turn a stack of wood and metal into a world class sportfishing boat.
Built to be comfortable, fast and sleek but most of all to take the fight to the fish and look good doing it.
The marina was chocked full of so much fishing hardware that it boggles the mind. The slips were bristling with multi-million dollar fishing boats who have gathered in this one spot for several reasons. Los Sueños offers first class, very secure accommodations and services for traveling boats and the area’s fishing has become legendary for its epic blue water billfishing. Grand slams are a regular thing for the Maverick fleet and even a slow day for Costa Rica is great day in most other locations. Chasing Pacific sailfish, which are huge by Atlantic standards, blue, black and striped marlin are the mainstay for the charter fleet. But billfish are not the only targets here, tuna, dorado, roosterfish and a variety of bottom fish are all possibilities during your time on the water.
Of course we are also here to document the trip in full detail with our awesome camera crew, who were loaded to the gills with the latest camera gear. Our captain, Juan Carlos Fallas, and mates Carlos “Coco” Cambronero, and Roberto “Chela” Salinas were extremely helpful and patient as we took over their boat and slowed the pace to document every detail.
As the lines were cast and the marina grew smaller behind us, the excitement of what lay ahead began to grow. As I mentioned before, this boat was built and rigged for serious fishing. We had dredges, daisy chains and teaser lures at the ready and in every color combo. Each teaser was lovingly tipped with a natural bait without hooks to maximize the fish’s drive to stick around.
The crew went over the plan and Eric was soaking it all in with a big grin. We would be pulling all of the aforementioned teasing hardware in addition to two flatlines, two long riggers and a shotgun. Each of these offerings did have a Mustad circle hook bridled to the forehead of a swimming ballyhoo. What a killer spread.
We were pulling the ballyhoo on Okuma’s Andros 2-speed lever drag reels filled with 25# mono line on an Okuma SCT Boat Rod to match. This combo made a really lightweight outfit that one can scoop up and feed a fish with no effort. Plenty of power when it came time to fight, so a winning combination. A wind on leader stepped up the business end of the tackle to protect against the aerial gyrations of angry fish. Of course, a marlin can show up at any time in the spread and we had two Makira 30IISEa reels and matching rods at the ready to pitch bait a marlin if they show themselves.
Being prepared is key to offshore fishing and man, were we ever ready!
Nothing works up an appetite like time on the water and the Maverick crew had it handled in style. Fresh pineapple and tropical fruit was served as well as homemade breakfast breads with your morning coffee.
Come lunchtime, we were treated to someone’s home cooking as huge plates of hot, delicious food came flowing from the cabin. Each day featured a new menu and hunger was not an option.
A delicious hot lunch while still trolling will spoil you!
We only had to run a quick 12 miles or so before shades of blue replaced the green in our churning wake. The captain eased back the throttle and the Open Fly settled back down into the calm Pacific. We cleaned our Costa sunglasses of the morning mist and prepared for a day of peering into the water. Costa’s incredible lens technology is a key part of fishing success. Cutting the glare and allowing your eyes to relax are just as important as filtering out the harmful UV light that can cause permanent damage. Costa excels at both.
As the outriggers stretched out, teasers were already being deployed to their pre-determined locations. A pair of Lindgren Pitman electric reels with the appropriate pulley systems deployed the brightly colored dredges, which would simulate two schools of bait behind and below the boat.
Dredges have dramatically changed the world of billfishing with their ability to draw fish to the back of the boat and put them in the mood to eat. Dredge teasers and their associated trolling weights create high pressure on the tackle when being trolled, hence the pulleys and five thousand dollar electric reels.
Anticipation was high when the first outrigger clip popped and the crew went into their well rehearsed plan of action. Eric grabbed the rod as the fish put a steady bend in it. A flash of green and yellow took to the air and let us know that our first taker was a decent dorado.
The perfect icebreaker and a delicious dinner!
We continued to work the local waters and searched for any features like rips or temperature breaks that might congregate baitfish and the predators that follow. We had trolled further offshore for a while when commotion from above mingled with the hum of the diesels. The captain was yelling “right long” and the crew was already in motion. Eric grabbed the rod and fed his ballyhoo to the dark shadow in pursuit of his bait. With calm coaching from the mate, Eric slid the lever drag up on the Andros and the rod slowly loaded up as the circle hook found its mark in the corner of a sailfish’s mouth.
The sail’s first reaction in this situation is to give a few violent head shakes, his bill slashing the water and then launch!
Pacific sailfish are known for their over exuberant aerial displays and Eric’s sailfish was no exception. Using the Andros in high gear, Eric kept the line tight as the fish dumped line, spending half of its run in the water and the other half in the air. As the last of the teasers and hooked baits came over the gunnel, the rumble of reverse engaged and we were backing down.
After few secondary runs and some “windshield wiping”, Eric’s sail came alongside for a quick picture in the water and revival. What an awesome fish with their giant black and purple sail shining in the sun.
We also used the Okuma Azores spinning reel for the flat line, ballyhoo bait. The crew used a rubber band around the open spool to enable us to leave the bail open for a free drop back once the flat line clip popped. The light rubber band prevented the line from jumping off the spool, but upon a bite, the line was easily pulled off the spool letting the fish turn and swim away unknowing that the Mustad light wire circle hook would soon find the corner of its mouth when slow pressure was applied. This method of fishing is highly efficient and much better for the survival of the fish than the use of J-hooks.
That night we took our fresh dorado to one of Los Sueños’s fine dining options on the waterfront overlooking the marina and the mountains. First class is the only way to describe the resort.
The Marina Village shopping area and restaurants along the water leave nothing wanting to the traveling angler. The chef prepared our fresh fish in a variety of ways, each better than the first and all delicious.
The next day, despite being the dry season for Costa Rica, we awoke to a distant rumble of thunder and grey skies. The locals were all in shock at the wet weather, but we were prepared and broke out our AFTCO weather gear. Light rain came and went during our day of trolling, but it did not stop us from catching more sailfish. Brighter colored dredges went over the rail and our selection of multi-colored lures were at the ready.
The crew had recommended we leave early the next morning because the black marlin had been around and catching live bait was key. We deployed small planars with spoons and jigs in an attempt to catch the 3 to 5-pound bonita that frequented several bait attracting structures. We did manage to capture a few and immediately bridled some of them and deployed them behind the boat. Slow trolling the area with our tuna in tow did not get us the bite we were hoping for, but we did get to watch another boat in the Maverick fleet hook up and catch a nice blue marlin.
The sailfish continued to appear at random and we caught them on both conventional reels and spin. Calm waters were a pleasure and the overcast conditions kept the temperature pleasantly cool for life in the tropics.
Our mates worked hard to keep our spread in top notch condition and continually switched out colors and freshened up the natural baits in the teasers. No one can control the fishing but putting forth this effort maximizes the part that can be controlled.
During one lull, Carlos took some time to show us how he was rigging the swimming ballyhoo. He preps the ballyhoo, breaking backs, and squeezing innards, removing eyeballs before flossing in a chin weight on the ballyhoo. The Mustad circle hook is snelled to the fluorocarbon leader, about 3-feet long. The hook is held in place under the floss on the forehead of the ballyhoo. The weight makes the ballyhoo swim upright and it makes the perfect gumdrop for a hungry sailfish.
Right on cue, the pop of a clip triggered the springing to action of the crew and another sailfish gulped the bait, getting hooked safely in the corner of the mouth. Taking to the air, the sailfish put on an incredible aerial display.
The last day, we trolled in the morning for another sailfish and a marlin shot on the teaser, but spent the afternoon checking out the inshore waters along the black-sand beaches and protruding rocks. Capt. Jose Francisco Brenes and his mate took us in a panga to slow troll live baits outside of the surf line and over submerged rocks, which produced several attacks from marauding roosterfish in the 4 to 6-pound range.
The sight of a roosterfish’s high dorsal pulsing behind your offering is heart pounding!
We also cast Nomad poppers and swimming lures further towards the churning surf and had many followers and a few takers. The Okuma Azores spinners were the ticket to casting way inshore where the boat dare not go. I even had a couple slender houndfish get snared while harassing my lure. Good fun with great people is what makes these trips so special. The scenery is hard to beat and the time flies by when you’re having fun.
Just like that our trip came to an end, but the memories will go on for a lifetime. The Los Sueños experience only leaves you wanting more and I look forward to the day we return to fish these fertile waters again.
Truly a gem of a place nestled where the jungle meets the sea.