2022 Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown Leg 1 Report
January 27-29, 2022
Story by: Brian Titus
We were almost 50 miles out, with 18 boats around us, all driving in anything but a straight line. Somehow, each boat maneuvered through a maze of unrehearsed lanes and hooked up with billfish despite the congested traffic! Being a scuba diver, I could visualize the countless billfish and other predators circling and piercing the bait balls that were constantly appearing on the sonar. As a first time observer, I was struck with adrenaline-laced awe while witnessing, firsthand, the 6 to 9 foot sailfish and marlin performing their signature dances across the sea surface. To say I was pumped, stoked, jacked, or merely excited would have been an understatement - and this was day 3 of Leg 1 of the Los Sueños Signature Series Billfish Tournament.
The marina was active before 5 a.m. each day. Officials were milling around the check-in station, observers were checking in, and mates were stocking the boats and readying baits. Fishing was limited to a 50-mile radius around the GPS point N 09 38’ and W 084 40’. The starting time for lines in was 8 a.m.
The first day began in a blur and, before I knew it, I was standing on an immaculate 72’ Viking sport fisher that had been built with 70 individual custom change orders. These included recessed lighting in the floor and ceiling of the salon, a large television monitor in the salon that was linked to the captain’s screen on the bridge, and an additional screen monitor on the seatback of the captain’s chair.
The waters were slightly choppy and relatively calm on the ride out. Cruising at nearly 35 knots, it seemed the further we got out the more the waters flattened out. One to two foot seas were the worst we saw the entire time. The anglers alternated catching sailfish and marlin, totaling six this day; three sails, two blue marlin and one striped marlin.
After the first few fish were released, I became more comfortable with the procedure - identifying the species, documenting the time of a marlin hook up, and watching the angler while staying out of the captain’s line of sight. With each subsequent fish, I called the release and noted the time, finally recording the fish confirmation number radioed by the tournament officials. All of this took place within a very short time.
Over the course of the three days on the water, I was amazed to see many big sailfish were hooked and released in just two minutes! On one occasion, I peered back at the captain’s dashboard and noted we were doing 11 knots - in reverse - while chasing down a sailfish 80 yards out and near the surface! In rougher seas, the cockpit would have been filled with water.
Days 2 and 3
On days two and three, I enjoyed watching how the captain and anglers handled their tasks. Each was very effective. One captain really stood out. He was alone on the bridge as he continuously multi-tasked, spotting birds and other surface activity miles out. He studied the sonar and the elliptical marks that appeared on the screen. He monitored the baits and teasers. I watched his eyes as they darted from left to right, short and long, continually, and realized he was spotting billfish even around the teasers and dredges 10 feet under the water! He used the electric reels above his head to retrieve the teasers before the predators struck them, and guided the anglers to move their baits into the optimum position for a strike.
On that day, fifteen sailfish were caught. I witnessed a triple hook-up and called the release for all three. Five minutes before lines out, we had a double hook-up. In this hectic instant, before we knew what kind of fish was on, one of the lines became tangled around the rod tip. Someone other than the angler rushed down to free it before it broke off. When he realized the angler had received illegal assistance, the captain became very generous with his use of four-letter words. The angler immediately broke off the fish and both the captain and I were relieved to learn that the fish was a sail and not a marlin. The captain chased down the other sail, and I called that release.
A Close Finish
At the end of day 3, the vessel Miss AC was in first place with 5,700 points. Team Galati and Max Bet were tied for second place with 5,400 points each. With these three boats having points so close to one another, Leg II looks to be an exciting match up from the get go.
A lot of remarkable moments made up my first experience as a tournament observer. As time progressed from the first to third day, I wasn’t completely sure this kind of event on the water was for me. I mean, this was the absolute first time I’d been on the water or a boat without a fishing rod, or for that matter, a spear gun, bow, net or trap in my hands! I’m typically not a fan of watching others perform any sport that I could be doing myself. But after seeing so many big fish crashing the surface of the ocean, I became a fan. And, I look forward to doing it again.