Winning Big!!! The trick to winning offshore tournaments.

Article repost from FishTrack

Article by Charlie Levine

I saw the carnage first hand. Going into day three of the 2015 International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout, the crew fishing with Capt. Tim Richardson of Tradition Charters went from fourth place, after two solid days of good fishing to somewhere in the middle of the pack. On day one they released four whites and one blue. On day two they added two more white marlin. But on day three, the day I rode along to shoot photos, they missed five billfish and everyone started to stare at me like I had brought this black cloud of bad luck onto the boat.

The misses had nothing to do with me. Tim and his mates, Garrett Penley and Rey Fontana, were doing their job and putting the anglers on fish, but their anglers were a group of novice guys from Detroit. Nice guys, but pretty green to say the least.

I could feel the tension, especially when the angler on the right flat missed the most beautiful blue marlin bite you could ask for. Tim expertly teased the fish in using the bridge teaser and the angler got his bait into position. The blue switched off the teaser and chomped on the ballyhoo like a hungry dog. The angler slammed the drag down too quickly and yanked the bait right out of the blue’s mouth. But wait, it gets worse…

Rather than fade off, the blue stayed in the spread and bit a lure fished off of the right rigger. The drag was just barely engaged on the reel so it began to pour off line and the angler yanked the rod out of the holder and snapped it out of the rigger clip but the line became tip-wrapped as slack fell from the outrigger. In a panic the angler shook the rod, trying to do something to free the line but it was no use. Ka-pow! The line snapped. The worse sound in the world.

Tim wore his frustrations well and picked up the radio to commiserate with the fleet. “If anyone sees a blue marlin jumping around with a Lumo Sprocket in its mouth, that’s mine,” he said. Other captains responded with their condolences. Tim’s deckhand, Garret Penley, wasn’t so kind. His frustrations boiled over and a few choice expletives flew from his lips as he threw some gear around. The mood was not good, but Tim lightened it with a joke and Garret apologized. When things calmed down a bit the crew explained what the angler did wrong and how to avoid the situation moving forward.

To lose five marlin in one day during a catch-and-release tournament is never a good thing, especially when you’re fishing against professional teams on some of the Caribbean’s top boats. It’s hard to compete with the guys on the Uno Mas, Shark Byte or Viking 62 on any given day, let alone when you’re fishing with four anglers from Detroit!

The team pulled back into Cap Cana Marina that evening to lick their wounds. The next day was a lay day, no fishing, so they had time to regroup. However, these guys did not give up. They showed up on the final day having learned from their mistakes. The anglers had something to prove to themselves and the crew.

“We were greenies on the first two days and made just about every mistake you can make,” said Victor Vojcek, who had put the trip together and invited the top employees from his company to join him. “We all regretted our mess ups and vowed that we wouldn’t do it again.”

Tim and his crew also made some changes to better suit their anglers. Rather than fish all rigged baits on circle hooks, which require an educated thumb and knowing how to drop back and feed a fish, they pulled mostly lures. Victor, who was the most experienced of the four anglers, manned the only rod with a bait in the water, which was fished on the right flat. Running lures on wind-on leaders helped the more novice anglers improve their hook-up ratio, which they did by a long shot.

I was not there to witness the turnaround firsthand. I opted to join the team on the Casca Dura, a 72-foot American Custom Yacht run by an old friend, Capt. Bruno Larica from Brazil. However, we saw Tim hook up right next to us several times and we’d hear him on the radio. “White marlin release for Tradition,” Tim said not once, but five times over the course of the day. We did not hear any of Tim’s jokes, he was all business. Tradition released five white marlin on the final day of fishing to move into first place in the Dewar’s 12 Division calcutta division. Somehow, they turned it around and finished in the money.

When I asked Tim what the difference was between day three and day four, he had a very simple response: “We didn’t miss any fish,” he said.

The Alina, which won the Barcelo Rum Division of the Shootout and scored the most points overall, also went skunked on one of the fishing days, but they too persevered. The lesson in all of this? No matter how tough things get, follow these three words: Just keep fishing!