The top four teams at the 2018 Offshore World Championship cut their teeth at qualifying events in Brazil.
The 2018 Lucas Oil Offshore World Championship gathered some of the world’s best anglers together for the chance to earn the most exclusive title in international tournament fishing. But of the 51 elite teams competing, only one was crowned 2018 Offshore World Champions.
In 2018, the title went to Team Torneio Marlin do Rio de Janeiro, of Brazil. The victory was especially sweet for anglers Matheus Assad, Elias Houaiss, Mateus Marques, Helio Marques and Carlos Assad. In 2017, their team came in second place to fellow Brazilians, Team Torneio de Peixes de Bico. Of the 11 Brazilian teams competing in the tournament in 2018, seven finished in the top 10. A complete recap of the 2018 results is available at offshoreworldchampionship.com.
For 2019, it’s everyone against the Brazilians. Will anyone be able to topple their stranglehold on the leaderboard? No matter what, teams overwhelmingly agreed the 2018 tourney was an absolute blast. We spoke to the 2018 champions, OWC veterans and new qualifiers to get their reactions from the 2018 event in Quepos, Costa Rica.
First Place Team, Torneio Marlin Do Rio De Janeiro
Elias Houaiss, a member of the Torneio Marlin do Rio de Janeiro winning team
OFFSHORE WORLD: How did it feel to win the 2018 Offshore World Championship tournament?
EH: Winning the OWC in 2018 was hard for us to believe until the moment it finally happened. Being a part of the tournament with so many other great teams, some of them that we admire a lot, really inspired us. It is something we are proud of. So how do we feel about winning a tournament like this? It is hard to describe. It is a mix between satisfaction, happiness and thankfulness. For sure, we’ll remember the moment for the rest of our lives.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Brazilian teams did really well in 2018, taking first, second and third place. Why do you think Brazilian teams do so well at the Offshore World Championship?
EH: Fishing in Brazil is something that is becoming harder each year. The commercial fishing industry kills tons of billfish every day during peak season with their long lines. The government has not done anything to stop it. In the past, a usual trip had up to 20 strikes in a day. Today, the average is four strikes. So fishing for so few billfish means that you can’t make common mistakes.
OFFSHORE WORLD: What fishing techniques for billfish in Brazil did you use in Costa Rica?
EH: We have had the opportunity to fish in many different places in Brazil and around the world. Each place has its own techniques. Fishing in Guatemala is different than fishing in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is different than fishing in Brazil. Whenever we fish different places, we try a mix of the best practices that we know, depending on the amount of strikes, sea conditions, wind and weather.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Did you bring your own fishing tackle? Did you rig your own fishing tackle?
EH: Yes, we took our own tackle to the tournament. Rods, reels, lines and other things were all brought with us. No disrespect to the Costa Rica mates, but we rig everything ourselves. This is the best way to guarantee good quality.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Does your team use spinning rods and reels to catch marlin?
EH: When we troll with natural baits, half of us use spinning reels and half of us use conventional reels. It depends on what the angler feels most comfortable with. When we fish with lures, we all use conventional reels. In my opinion, I do prefer conventional reels for both baits and lures. I like to feel the billfish bite. The main advantage of spinning reels is that the fish does not feel the pressure of the line during the attack.
OFFSHORE WORLD: You caught all your fish the first three days of fishing at the OWC. What was it like on the fourth day of fishing?
EH: It was one of the most stressful days of our entire lives. Winning the OWC in 2018 was more than a dream and, suddenly, it was so tangible. We were confident during the last day, but the fish were not cooperative with us. That’s the reason we love it. Going without any releases on the last day made the whole crew go crazy. Every team’s hookup we heard over the radio was pure torment.
OFFSHORE WORLD: What is your favorite offshore fish to target in Brazil?
EH: Blue marlin, for sure. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been fishing for them; they are always a big surprise and a day to remember.
OFFSHORE WORLD: How many tournaments do you guys fish in a year?
EH: Last season, we took part in two tournaments in Brazil: Torneio de Marlin do Rio de Janeiro and Cabo Frio Marlin Invitational. We won both. Then we won the 2018 OWC. What a great season that was.
OFFSHORE WORLD: What’s the biggest marlin anyone on your fishing team has ever caught?
EH: Brazilian blue marlin are quite big! We have many big fish in our history. A memorable day was in the 2017 Torneio Cabo Frio Marlin Invitational. We released four blue marlin in the same day, and all of them were 400-plus pounds — the biggest was 750 pounds. The anglers that day were me, Matheus Assad and Helio Marques.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Do you think your team will ever come back to Costa Rica and compete in another Offshore World Championship? EH: We very much intend to. Unfortunately, probably not with all the same anglers, but the OWC 2018 team will definitely return to try to win again.
Team 2011 Offshore World Champions
Kevin Clark, a member of the 2011 Offshore World Championship team
OFFSHORE WORLD: As the 2011 winners, we consider you guys veterans of Offshore World Championship tournaments. Was the competition stiffer in 2018?
KC: The competition is always stiff, as these teams have won qualifying events from around the world. They are world-class anglers for a variety of species, and those who regularly target billfish in their home waters have a distinct advantage.
OFFSHORE WORLD: You’re not the only team to return to the OWC. Why do you think so many different winning teams end up coming back to fish again?
KC: I think a lot of times it is to challenge their own accomplishments and to prove that their win was not a fluke. It truly is a great experience, and to consistently be a top-10 team at this level requires a tremendous amount of talent, focus and true team effort.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Sailfish catches dominated 2018. How does it compare to 2011 fishing? I imagine you guys caught a ton of striped marlin in Cabo when the OWC used to be held there.
KC: In Cabo we caught 15 striped marlin and two sailfish. The fact is, none of our teammates had ever been to Cabo San Lucas before, and we caught more marlin in that tournament that we had caught previously in our combined lifetimes. It was our first year, and we had some beginner’s luck, combined with great swimming ballyhoo that we had brought from Florida. Also, we had world-class anglers Sam Worden and Hunter Baron on our team.
OFFSHORE WORLD: What’s it like to be able to talk to, drink with and socialize with fishing teams from all over the world?
KC: It is an honor to be with all those anglers who represent the pinnacle of the sport-fishing world. They are true competitors and embrace ethical angling and sportsmanship. There are always great fishing stories to be told, and as we anglers like to say, ‘All fishermen are liars, except me and you and I’m still not sure about you!’
OFFSHORE WORLD: How does Costa Rica compare to some of the other billfish fisheries you guys have fished together? In the 2011 tournament, I believe you guys won a qualifying event in the Keys?
KC: We had been on the sailfish tournament circuit for years in South Florida and were always pretty competitive, so when we finally won a qualifying event, we couldn’t pass up the chance to be in the OWC. We mainly sailfish in the Florida Keys, but have also fished for billfish in Hawaii, Cabo and Costa. All are great billfishing grounds, and Costa Rica has seen an amazing number of sailfish during the OWC tournaments thanks to the efforts of conservationists like Capt. Richard Chellemi of Gamefisher II, and Carlos Cavero Vargas of FECOP [Federacion Costarricencse de Pesca]. FECOP was instrumental in stopping the exportation of sailfish from Costa Rica beginning in 2009 and lobbied the government to reduce the number of purse-seine licenses by 70 percent, probably saving 25 metric tons of marlin that would have been bycatch, not to mention tons of other pelagic species and marine mammals.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Do you have any memories or moments you can share from the Offshore World Championship?
KC: In 2013, after being in the top five after days two and three, we didn’t have a bite all day on day four. We insisted the mates rig fresh baits with half an hour to go in the tournament, and 20 minutes later we hooked up and landed a quad of sailfish to jump from 13th place to fifth place in the waning minutes of the tournament. Catching a 200-pound blue marlin in 2016 on a TDL20 with 30-pound-test for me and Worden’s 62.6-pound dorado this year were also great memories.
OFFSHORE WORLD: In 2018 Brazilian teams dominated the top three places. What is it going to take to beat out those guys in future OWC tournaments?
KC: The Brazilian teams are great fishermen who do more dead-bait fishing than a lot of the other qualifying teams. They have mastered the art of the drop-back and the use of spinning rods for catching billfish. They also have a communications advantage. I’m still practicing my Spanglish to improve communications with the great Tico captains and mates.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Have you learned any new fishing techniques for billfish fishing alongside these other international teams?
KC: We have had to learn to troll weighted dead baits, as this is really the only week of the year we get to use this technique, and there is a great deal of skill required to consistently hook up billfish using the drop-back technique.
OFFSHORE WORLD: What advice do you have for teams coming to the Offshore World Championship for the first time?
KC: Be sure to enjoy the beautiful country of Costa Rica. I have had a home here for the past decade, and the people are very friendly, the wildlife and fisheries are phenomenal, and the weather is always beautiful.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Will you guys come back and compete for another championship in Costa Rica?
KC: We are planning on coming back in 2019 and 2020 so that we compete in 10 OWCs in a row. I don’t think anybody has come close to that yet, so that is our goal.
Team Caicos Classic Release Tournament
Delphine Hartshorn, a member of the Caicos Classic Release Tournament team
OFFSHORE WORLD: As a new team, what were your first impressions of the Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica?
DH: We were very impressed with the organization of the tournament. From the welcome evening to the daily marina socials to the closing party, the atmosphere was great and everything ran smoothly. It was certainly a well-run and professional tournament. For such a large event it wasn’t at all intimidating, and we felt so welcome by the committee, volunteers and other teams. Carter at Marina Pez Vela was fantastic. He used to live in Turks and Caicos, so it was great to have an old friend there with us.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Were the teams you met at the 2018 OWC friendly? Were they just as addicted to fishing as you were?
DH: Absolutely. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet all of the teams, but those we did were welcoming, and their passion for being on the water and chasing big game was apparent.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Do you believe the competition was tough? Was it what you expected?
DH: Honestly, we didn’t really know what to expect! This was the first time fishing in Costa Rica for most of us, and the first time at the OWC for all of us. We fish our local tournaments to have fun, and of course to win, but we knew this would be a tough competition. Bait-and-switch and circle-hook fishing are not how we fish daily, so we knew this would prove challenging. We approached the OWC the same as our local tournaments: to have fun, to do our best to get a win and to learn from our different boat crews.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Do you have any fun moments or memories you can share with us?
DH: We had a great time on all of the boats, and each angler had standout moments. Highlights were definitely Bruce releasing a sailfish on his birthday, the first day of fishing; Bill’s sailfish hookup on day three just a minute after lines in; Gervergo’s first sailfish release on day one; Mike’s marlin on day three that he battled hard for; and Delphine’s big marlin on day three. All of these moments stand out.
I think the best moment for us all was our ride home on day three. On the run in, we all gathered to listen to the radio recap at the end of the day and heard we were in fifth place, and our boat for the day, Raven, was in third. We hadn’t really paid too much attention to the radio throughout the day, so it was very exciting. The energy from our team and our crew was incredible and spirits were high. When we arrived back to the dock, phones started pinging with messages from back home. We had the whole community behind us, and they were so excited we were doing so well. It’s always so much fun fishing tournaments, but when you get to wave your country’s flag doing it, that’s special.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Can you tell us about that third day of fishing? It was a great day for you guys.
DH: That third day really was a great day for us. What a blast! When day three rolled around, we were able to really get in the groove. Bill released a sailfish about a minute after lines in, and the bites kept on coming. We missed a couple early in the day, but every team member got a release for the day, and we enjoyed the shared enthusiasm and passion from our crew. The ride in was a lot of fun. We were celebrating top-five positions for both team and boat, so the energy was great.
OFFSHORE WORLD: You guys always seemed to be having a blast at the marina and different events. Is it just your nature?
DH: This is definitely our nature! As a charter company crew, we work together daily and fish together regularly, whether it’s a local tournament, charter or fun fishing with our crew. We always make fun a priority, which is easy when you love what you do.
OFFSHORE WORLD: How does fishing in Turks and Caicos compare to fishing in Costa Rica?
DH: The major difference was the distance running to fishing grounds. At home in Turks and Caicos, we are fishing 10 to 15 minutes from the dock. In Costa Rica, they are running one to two hours out. There are differences in the catch as well. Pacific sailfish are bigger and in greater numbers than the Atlantic sailfish we have in our fishery. From our discussions with our crews, we learned that while they see bigger dolphin than we typically do, our wahoo and yellowfin are bigger than what they catch in season. We pulled up some pictures of 90-pound wahoo from our season and the guys were impressed.
OFFSHORE WORLD: Would you tell your friends, if they had the opportunity to fish the offshore world championship, to come out to Costa Rica to experience it?
DH: We would definitely recommend friends seize the opportunity to fish the OWC. The camaraderie, the location, the fishery and the experience of the local crews were outstanding.
The first-place doradocCatch weighed 62.6 pounds, caught by Sam Worden.
Top 2018 Teams
- 1st Place - 3,955.7 points, Brazil representing the Torneio Marlin do Rio de Janeiro
- 2nd Place - 3,300 points, Brazil representing the Torneio De Peixes De Bico
- 3rd Place - 2,700 points, Brazil representing the Torneio De Peixe De Oceano
- 1st Place – Earning 2,649.6 points from two blue marlin, eight sailfish and one 49.6-pound dolphin, Juan Cabrera Pena, of the XXV Torneo De Pesca De Aturo Puerto Calero team
- 2nd Place – Earning 1,700 points from one marlin and six sailfish releases, Elisangela Pina, of the XIV Billfish Challenge team
- 3rd Place – Earning 1,700 points from one blue marlin and six sailfish releases, Miro Vrlja, of the Kup Grada Hvara team
- 4th Place – Earning 1,500 points from one blue marlin and five sailfish releases, Nilo Cottini Filho, of the Torneio De Peixes De Bico team
- 5th Place – Earning 1,400 points from seven sailfish releases, Matheus Assad, of the Torneio Marlin do Rio de Janeiro team
- 6th Place – Earning 1,362.6 points from four sailfish releases, one marlin release and one 62.6-pound dolphin, Sam Worden, of the 2011 Offshore World Championship team
Anglers received prizes from Lucas Oil Offshore World Championship sponsors King Sailfish Mounts, Soundview Millworks, Guy Harvey, Costa Sunglasses, AFTCO, Garmin Marine, Flor de Caña, Big T Lures and Heineken.
- 1st place – Earning 3,555.7 points, Epic, Michael Alligood, Los Suenos, Costa Rica
- 2nd place – Earning 3,000 points, Mako, Capt. Mike Springer, Los Suenos, Costa Rica
- 3rd place – Earning 2,789.8 points, Super Fly, Capt. Rudy Arguedas, Los Suenos, Costa Rica
Captains received prizes from Lucas Oil Offshore World Championship sponsors King Sailfish Mounts, YETI, Guy Harvey, Costa Sunglasses, Lucas Oil, AFTCO, Taylor Offshore, Flor de Cana, Big T Lures and Heineken.
1st Place – 62.6 pounds, Sam Worden of the 2011 Offshore World Championship team, USA, received prizes from Lucas Oil Offshore World Championship sponsors Guy Harvey, King Sailfish Mounts, Soundview Millworks, AFTCO and Flor de Caña.
1st Place – 29.7 pounds, Calvin Du Plessis, of the Malindi International Festival team, Kenya, received prizes from Lucas Oil Offshore World Championship sponsors Guy Harvey, King Sailfish Mounts, Soundview Millworks, AFTCO and Flor de Caña.