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February 17, 2009

Make Mine Marlin

Panama's Piñas Bay makes marlin dreams a reality

The Tropic Star Experience

By Raleigh  Werking

My first trip to Tropic Star Lodge was in 1981, which I can recall like it was yesterday. While boarding the plane to leave, there was no doubt I'd be retuning again and again.  There was something magical about TSL that captured me from the beginning. Between 1981 and 1989 I would return as a client 22-times.  Since taking over sales & marketing in 1989 that number has grown to over 100 trips?  Zane Grey Reef hasn't changed much over the years, only 20-minutes from the lodge, teaming with Bonito and Rainbow Runners. Zane Grey discovered it on his way to the South Pacific in the 1930's.  The fishing was incredible; he regretted not spending more time there on his journey south.

The reef is actually 3-pinnacles rising from a depth of 350 feet to 125 feet covering an area about ½ mile square teeming with life.  The bottom is covered with cubera snapper and grouper; there are layers of fish, including sharks, amberjack and bonito. More often than not bonito and a flock of birds can be seen thrashing the surface feeding on smaller baitfish. The 12 to 20 foot tides provide the ultimate vertical food column. Most of the black marlin I've caught have been right on the reef, which holds bait and predators. Have caught numerous IGFA world records there, including a 141.5 Pacific sailfish on 4 lb. test, however my most memorable day didn't include a record. In 1989 I was trying to break the 16 lb test black marlin world record which stood at 399-pounds.  Spent most of the morning getting my gear together and didn't leave the dock till 10:00 with Captain Gustavo, our first trip together. The wind was blowing pretty well out of the north in late December; we would see black marlin tailing on the surface throughout the day. We managed to release four black marlin on 16 lb test between 250 & 350-pounds, and were back at the dock by 4:00 with four release flags flying high.  A day I will never forget...

Over the years the fleet of 31 Bertram's has been updated to include an incredible live bait well system, which holds six live bonito, as well as small baits like goggle eyes etc. This comes in real handy when heading out to catch the various species that roam the 100-fathom line 12-15 miles offshore.  The bait well, designed by owner Mike Andrews has helped make the fishing better than ever. Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Pacific Sailfish, Dorado and Yellowfin Tuna roam those waters offshore. The blue marlin fishing, which was really undiscovered until a few years ago, can be extremely productive fishing live-bait, bait & switch and lures.  In September 2008 we had an incredible blue marlin bite, with six boats fishing six days, releasing 69 blue marlin.

The inshore fishing for Roosterfish and cubera snapper has produced some incredible catches; including our lodge record 96-pound  roosterfish. Again, much of this can be attributed to our TSL live-bait system. We never knew the inshore fishing was that outstanding until we switched from pulling diving plugs to live bait. I was fortunate enough to break the 8 lb test IGFA roosterfish record using live bait with a catch of 54 ¾ pounds. The first roosterfish my wife Trish caught a couple of years ago was 70-pounds.

The best part of my job is turning people onto the Tropic Star Experience, which includes much more than just the fishing?  I'm hooked for life, which I realized on that very first trip in 1981.

The original owner Ray Smith, who built the lodge in 1963, had it right when he predicted that "these waters will produce many world records," which stands at over 250 and counting.

(Note: Author Raleigh Werking serves as the Director of Marketing for Tropic Star Lodge and is a multiple IGFA world record holder)