New Kings Are Crowned for the 12th Annual Huk Triple Crown Tournament at The Zancudo Lodge Costa Rica
Fishing the Huk Triple Crown at The Zancudo Lodge Offers Anglers an Experience Fit for a King
For immediate release – December 16, 2020 This past Friday, anglers from across the USA descended on Costa Rica for the 12thAnnual Huk Triple Crown Tournament at the world-renowned sport fishing destination The Zancudo Lodge. Located close to the Panama border on the Pacific side of the country, The Zancudo Lodge offers an ideal location for fishing tournaments with fast access to the blue water offshore for billfish as well as the species rich Golfo Dulce, one of the world’s most diverse inshore fisheries. To make things even better, just offshore, two major currents collide to create an oxygen rich environment perfect for the sailfish that migrate from Mexico each year.
In December strong winds from the North push the rain off the Pacific coast marking an end to the rainy season and ushering in the prime weather that draws thousands of anglers a year to this Central American paradise.This year’s Triple Crown featured anglers hailing from Tennessee, Wisconsin, California and Connecticut. Now in its 12th year, The Huk Triple Crown Tournament at The Zancudo Lodge consists of three exciting challenges for anglers with an inshore division and two offshore divisions for gamefish and billfish up for grabs.
Why Call This Fishing Tournament The Triple Crown?
The Triple Crown is named for the three divisions or “Crowns” that comprise the tournament. The inshore division is the first crown and teams need to release at least one roosterfish of twenty-four inches or more to qualify. The two offshore divisions consist of a gamefish division where anglers need a tuna, dorado or wahoo followed by the popular billfish division. In the billfish division, anglers need either a sailfish, marlin or spearfish with marlin being worth the most points.
Roosterfish, the target of the inshore division, are found inshore so gunning for these powerful fighters is usually the first order of business before moving offshore for the Billfish and Gamefish legs of the tournament. Roosterfish love live bait, so to add to the challenge, anglers need to get bait before pursuing these strong fish on the inshore reefs and volcanic coastline. Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce is loaded with bait, and anglers can find congregations of popping sardines within about half an hour and be ready to roll. For the Gamefish division, teams can record and weigh up to two gamefish but only the heaviest will be recorded. One hundred points is awarded to the heaviest fish and the most collective points during the three-day fishing tournament wins the Gamefish division. Not only are the 32’ Contenders at The Zancudo Lodge extremely fast getting teams to the hunting grounds quickly, but they are equipped with state-of-the-art radar which can help locate pods of spinner dolphins up to five miles out – giving anglers a better chance to find the tuna. Dorado of course can be found by trawling around floating logs or other debris and shark-like wahoo can surprise anglers on the teasers any day of the year in Costa Rica.
The most exciting leg of this tournament for most anglers is the Billfish division. Sailfish in Central America get big, and they are extremely active and known for putting on high flying aerial displays. As the fish fight, their adrenaline starts to flow causing them to “light up”, triggering their amazing neon blue and electric purple color shifts. The true offshore king however is the blue marlin which is worth the tournament high 400 points and is no doubt what most anglers have been dreaming about after months in quarantine and lockdown. Striped, and black marlin as well as spearfish are also found in these waters and are prime targets for the tournament. (Note – maybe I won’t include this sentence if no marlin were released)
Offshore Fishing Points – Billfish Division
• Sailfish or Spearfish = 150 points
• Striped Marlin = 200 points
• Blue or Black Marlin = 400 points
Tournament Day 1: Warming Up
The Thursday prior to the tournament was a practice day and to the pleasant surprise of the anglers, the offshore waters were a deep blue….. and as we would soon discover, filled with sailfish. I had the pleasure of joining in the practice run with the previous year’s Triple Crown Winner Keith Brossard.
Hailing from the badger state of Wisconsin, Keith and had been on fishing trips to the lodge annually since the early 90’s when it was under different ownership and was no stranger to how to fish these waters. Two hours into the practice day and about 10 miles out we saw over 6 free jumping sailfish which is always a good sign. Sometimes sailfish are lethargic because of warmer water temperatures or other variables and they can be either extremely finicky or not eat at all, but these free jumpers we saw appeared to be amped-up and hungry -jumping, twisting, and greyhounding freely in the open ocean – seemingly to say “yes, we are ready for the Triple Crown, bring it on”.
By ten-thirty our captain Abilio went off like a five-alarm fire and was screaming Vela, Vela, Vela or Sail, Sail, Sail in English. We would soon learn that this captain was even more excited at the prospect of sailfish than we were. Captain Abilio was a master at enticing billfish to the spread as he constantly switched teaser colors and configurations until he found the combination that got them in the mood to engage.
Offshore fishing in Costa Rica is a hunting game and can be hot and cold as you go through moments of relative calm to the BANG of that first billfish strike. As the first sailfish of the day hit our teasers, the adrenaline started to flow and we rushed to the back of the boat just in time to see the massive head of an extremely large sailfish. He was so big we thought he was a marlin with his large head coming completely out of the water in pursuit of the bait…as the monster sailfish hit the back left teaser he rolled over on the line and spit the hook. Little did we know he would be the first of eight sails that would visit the spread that day and it was almost as if these sailfish had been in quarantine way too long and were chomping at the bit for action just like us.
We could see other fishing boats on the horizon from one of the neighboring fishing lodges hooked up and experiencing the same action. The light was reflecting off the high flying sailfish in the distance and you could see the anglers with bent rods fighting the fish in the rear of the boat’s cockpit.
Between 10:30 and 12:00, at about 15 miles out, we had a double followed by a triple hookup and we knew that we were going to be in for a good tournament weekend. Meanwhile the other boats who took a slightly different route offshore got knee deep in a tuna frenzy with individuals in the 60-80lb range.
We were curious about how good the fishing would be due to a lack of pressure on the fishery from Covid19 and how this would affect the fishing action and we had our answer – these fish were out, hungry, and in good numbers.
All anglers caught billfish but the story of the day was tuna, tuna and more tuna. November and December are typically good tuna months in Costa Rica and this year proved no different. All boats came in with at least two in the 70lb range. As the crew filleted the tuna at the pier, the big crocs started to move in, in search of tasty sashimi scraps. Via tournament rules all fish had to be landed or released by 3:00 and then weighed at the pier by 5pm. This is about the time the crocodile show starts at Zancudo Lodge’s private pier. Happy anglers hauling 60-80lb yellowfin to the scales to be weighed and recorded for the tournament followed by a crocodile feeding frenzy from the discarded tuna scraps on the sandy mangrove banks of the Rio Coto.
Here is a video showing just how big these crocs get with this one scarfing down some sashimi. Life is good for the crocs at The Zancudo Lodge, Costa Rica
Big roosterfish, sailfish and lots more tuna continued on days two and three of the tournament with all boats remaining close. Keith my angling partner for the practice day smashed the gamefish offshore landing a big bull dorado at about 45+lbs and and some nice tuna with the largest being in the 80lb range. Other anglers got a taste of what makes roosterfish one of the strongest pound for pound fighting fish on the planet. All boats released billfish again.
Congratulations to Team Gomo Mucho Winners of the 12th Annual Huk Triple Crown at The Zancudo Lodge
The Triple Crown is a friendly and exciting tournament in one of the world’s truly spectacular inshore and offshore fisheries. Anglers of all skill levels are welcome to compete, and if you want to experience the same action any time of the year or if you are trying to find that perfect fishing destination, The Zancudo Lodge is the cream of the crop. If you need some more convincing, here is my review of the overall experience from the rooms to the restaurant. After 20 years in the Costa Rican fishing and tourism industry, this lodge has my full attention, and I can’t wait to get back.