We could see the fleet over the bank a few miles to the north, but where de la Peña pulled back the throttles, traveling tuna dimpled the flat surface, and we had the sea to ourselves. We set out a pair of trolling feathers and dropped them back a hundred yards, and de la Peña worked the lures in among the tuna, garnering a quick strike. Jesse stepped up to the first yellowfin fight of the day. The fish hit hard and bore deep - it had a couple thousand feet of water under them to work with - but we pulled several tough yellowfins in the 30- to 40-pound class from the school before the fish headed west into the open Pacific, and de la Peña turned our bow to the bank and the striped marlin bite, which was well underway.
As we idled into the fleet, it was evident we were into something special. More than 75 boats sat scattered across the bank, and a fair number of them were fighting fish, which would be the case all day. Bait schooled beneath our hull, and we watched the lit-up marlin, 15 feet down, shadowing them. Jesse hooked up on the first fish of the day, and Scott and I stayed out of the way until he brought it to leader. After the release, we rotated through, each of us taking fish in our turn while the others watched the fight, took photos and kept an eye on the amazing scene around us. Frigate birds patrolled the skies; whales breached; seals worked the bait, scattering the schools; and marlin bounced across the surface all over the bank, some tethered to the anglers leaning into them from the cockpits of probably a dozen boats at any one time, and others just free-jumping.
It wasn't marlin stacked like cordwood, but it was spectacular fishing by any measure.
The curse of the Los Angeles Times story hadn't doomed us. Later we'd hear tales of dozens of fish taken in a day and of anglers catching striped marlin from kayaks and being towed around the Pacific.
Our experience couldn't match these exotic stunts. But what sticks in my mind is what Jesse told me on our last day as he cracked a cold one and reeled up for the run back to Cabo. "This is the best time I've ever had offshore," he said.