TeamWhyKnot Captain Jeff Lomonaco went on an awesome trip down to Costa Rica with his crew from White Water Outfitters.
Read Jeff’s day-by-day story of his team’s quest to win the 4th Annual White Water Costa Rica Shootout tournament at Zancudo Lodge.
Translated from Spanish to English, Costa Rica means “Rich Coast”. If you ever have the opportunity to spend some time on the water in this country, you’ll learn just what the namesake means.
There’s no gold-ridden streams or buried treasure on this small stretch of Pacific coast (none that I’ve been fortunate enough to find at least). No Hamptons-esque mansions dotting the shoreline, or exotic cars buzzing around the little water-side towns. This sense of the word “rich” is much less material oriented. The waters along this stretch are a treasure themselves, treasures that are rich with life.
My first glimpse of this came as I gazed down at the coast from the window of the small single-engine plane. All of the structure that might hold fish in that deep blue water jumped right out at me… rock outcrops, ledges, river mouths, submerged points, dirt lines along the beach, the list could go on for days. It was clear that this was a special place, and I couldn’t wait for the wheels to touch down so I could begin this fishing adventure of a lifetime in such a beautiful country.
This trip consisted of two parts, the first being a 3 day live-aboard expedition on Thumper, a 62 foot Mikelson Sportfish Yacht. The second half would be the 4th Annual White Water Costa Rica Shootout tournament at Zancudo Lodge. Accompanied by a solid crew of 3 friends that I’m lucky to call my co-workers from White Water Outfitters, this was sure to be a great trip with many laughs and good times regardless of the fishing.
We landed in Golfito in the late afternoon on the first day where the owner of Thumper welcomed us with some taxis to head down to the marina. After loading the boat with our luggage and gear, and a nice dinner at the restaurant we prepared to motor out that evening on the boat that would be our home at sea for the next 3 days.
For the first three days of our trip we got to experience some wild action with Blue Marlin on Thumper, and a pleasant surprise of one Black Marlin that my friend Jake caught and released. We had countless amounts of raises and hookups, and each of us got to land a couple of fish each.
One of my personal goals of this trip was to catch a Blue Marlin on the fly, which we dedicated some time to after we all got to fight some fish on conventional gear. I had three shots at fish, one which resulted in a hookup that didn’t end well when the fish decided to burst into a screaming run almost instantaneously. My fingers were sliced open from the backing, and the fish broke me off after several jumps. I was heartbroken to not land that fish, but seeing that fish come up to eat my fly, and feeling that hit was probably one of the craziest adrenaline rushes I’ve ever had.
After running back inshore on the third day, we made a quick transfer into a Zancudo boat that met us at sea and we made our way to the lodge. After arriving at the Zancudo dock we had an hour to get ready before dinner. The accommodations at the lodge were top-notch, which was perfect after spending a few nights on a boat.
Seven teams of three people would be fishing in the tournament, and we were all given the rundown of the rules after dinner. It was a points-based tournament, and your team got points for each fish. Certain species were worth more than others. The goal was to catch the most fish and end up with the highest total of points for your team at the end of the three tournament days.
Myself, Bryce, and Jake represented White Water Outfitters as Team Brown Dog, named after Bryce’s Chesapeake Bay Retrievers that are always on staff at the shop. The lodge had three Contender boats available with capabilities to run far offshore for Marlin, and five smaller center consoles for inshore fishing, and light offshore Sailfish, and Tuna fishing.
Each team was allowed one day to fish on a Contender, and two days on the smaller boats. We drew a Contender on the first day of the tournament, so obviously we chose to run offshore for Marlin.
Fishing live baits with circle hooks, we ended up releasing three Marlin, however we were down on points compared to one team that had an absolutely epic day with six Marlin and two Sailfish. At the end of the day we were in Second Place. Things were not looking good for us since Marlin were worth 400 points each, and most other species inshore were worth only 100 or less which is what we would be confined to for the next two days. We would have to absolutely dominate on the inshore scene if we wanted to win.
With two days to make up points, our strategy was to have one person manning live baits in the rear, and two casting lures off the bow at all times too. This was non-stop “balls to the walls” fishing, with no time for rest. If we wanted to win, we had to be on our game!
I chose to spend the entirety of the two days casting lures since that is the type of fishing that I have a lot of experience with. I pounded out cast after cast with Rangers, and caught a ton of fish using a high speed retrieve, making the ranger look like something erratically running for it’s life from the jaws of hungry predators. Watching the Roosters, Jacks, and Houndfish chase these down, and finally smashing them on the surface made for some seriously fun fishing.
We had two epic days between the live bait fishing and casting, and tallied a staggering amount of Roosterfish, several Jack Crevalle, as well as some Horse Eyed Jacks, Houndfish, and Snappers.
After two days of working very hard inshore we were stoked to find out that we’d overtaken the leading team Sancocho by 750 points, and that we had officially won the tournament, especially since our prize for winning was a free trip back for next year!
We had a very long, exhausting, and most importantly fun week of fishing, and with the tournament out of the way we had one last day at the lodge to do whatever we pleased. Zip-lining, surfing, hiking in the rain forest, or just plain old relaxing were all on the table as options. So naturally after 6 days of hard fishing, what did we choose to do? GO FISHING!
We chartered one of the Contenders for the day and back to the Marlin grounds we went. We had some of the hottest action of the trip with Blue Marlin and ended it all off on a high note.
Leaving this place wasn’t easy after such an epic adventure, but boarding the plane at Golfito with a “‘til next year, Costa Rica!” rather than “goodbye” put my mind at ease knowing that I’d definitely be back for another journey to the Rich Coast.