Jigging and Popping Southern Costa Rica

A group of enthusiasts helps test some new gear and shares the adventure off the Golfo Dulce

THE JIG-AND-POP GAMBIT

While live bait still reigns supreme among those who fish southern Costa Rica waters, some anglers are all about throwing poppers and dropping metal jigs when possible, enjoying the hands-on action and great variety. I was part of such a group recently that spent a few days fishing out of the Zancudo Lodge, including John Bretza with Okuma, shown here with a very respectable that grabbed a popper.Doug Olander
Location map, Zancudo, Costa Rica

FINDING ZANCUDO LODGE

Zancudo Beach (also a world-renowned surfing area) is located just inside the extensive Golfo Dulce, a tick north of Panama.courtesy of Googlemaps

LIVING IN STYLE

My home away from home: The “rooms” at Zancudo Lodge are genuinely spectacular. This is the living area of the unit to which I was assigned for far-too-few days.Doug Olander

GREAT FISHING DESERVES A GREAT BOAT

Leaving the dock. One of two flagship 32-foot Contenders of the lodge’s fleet heads out for the day, skippered by Wilberth Tito Mendoza Gutierrez — a.k.a. Tito. Powered by twin Yamaha 350s, the boats can put anglers on the grounds in a hurry.Doug Olander

TOUGH DECISIONS

Like any true popping/jigging enthusiast, Paul Michele with Navionics brings a selection of faves with him.Adrian E. Gray

PUTTIN' ON THE HEAT

Michele’s jig choice pays off when he hooks into something substantial. Here, Tito spins the boat to optimize the line angle as Michele puts on all the heat 50-pound braid can offer.Doug Olander

AN ARMFUL OF ALMACO

Michele’s prize: Nearly 60 pounds of Pacific almaco jack.Doug Olander

JIG CATCH

Closeup of the big almaco with the Williamson Abyss speed jig it struck.Doug Olander

WORKING ON A ROOSTER

Mustad’s Thais Torres takes on a big roosterfish off Matapalo Rock after it hit a live bait.Doug Olander

NEW-TECH TACKLE

One of John Bretza’s goals during this trip: To give the new Okuma Azores spinning reels a good test.Adrian E. Gray

A STUDY IN BLUE

Bluefin trevally are common nearshore predators in these waters. Colorful, powerful and tasty, these members of the jack clan have it all.Adrian E. Gray

GREETING COMMITTEE

When Zancudo boats return late in the afternoon, dock crocs wait patiently for carcasses from fish-cleaning tables.Doug Olander

QUIET TIME IN ZANCUDO LODGE

As the sun sets over the Pacific in the pre-dinner quiet, lights come on in the main lodge.Adrian E. Gray

EAT 'N RUN

Same spot, next morning -- anglers grabbing breakfast before heading out.Doug Olander

BIOMATTER!

We found lots of areas, certainly like that off Matapalo Rock, where masses of life lit up the sounder screen.Doug Olander

POMPANO FOR DINNER

John Bretza with one of several African pompano we hooked on jigs while fishing around outer Golfo Dulce. We enjoyed this one for dinner that night.Doug Olander

GET READY TO DROP 'EM

Bretza also hoped to put Okuma’s little two-speed Metaloid, an ideal jigging reel, through some paces on this flat-calm morning in the outer gulf.Adrian E. Gray

TEST BY TUNA

Bretza puts the pedal to the Metaloid vs. a yellowfin tuna, while also testing Okuma's new lightweight, super-strong Azores jigging rod. The tuna, after a half-hour plus, broke off almost boatside.Adrian E. Gray

WORLD-RECORD SNAPPER?

This yellow snapper, only later recognized to be of potential world-record size, comes aboard for the IGFA’s Adrian Gray, after he hooked the fish in about 100 feet of water on a Williamson Benthos speed jig.Doug Olander

GOOD SIGN

An elegant frigate bird soars overhead as we scan the surface for feeding activity.Adrian E. Gray

TEST BY TUNA (AGAIN)

We find activity at the surface, at first spotting dolphins and then seeing yellowfin exploding among them. Paul Michele cast out a small popper and got whacked halfway back to the boat. Here, a half-hour later, he struggles to make headway with the big tuna.Adrian E. Gray

END-GAME PRIZE

Adrian Gray (left), John Bretza, and the victorious angler, Paul Michele (right) share the moment after gaffing the prizeDoug Olander

CABRILLA SURPRISE

This small spotted cabrilla had been tagged months earlier over a small piece of structure in the Golfo Dulce. After our recapture, it swam right back down to its hood.Doug Olander

HANGIN' AROUND

There's no shortage of big lizards in these waters.Doug Olander

DOWN THE HATCH

Crocs come to the surface with their food to swallow it just as this fellow is doing.Thais Torres

TYING THE FG KNOT

Acting as both videographer and knot expert, the very talented Mr. Gray videos the process of tying a simplified and very effective FG knot, the best there is for connecting braid to a heavy mono or fluoro leader — and you can see that video here!Doug Olander

WISHES UP AND AWAY

This striking, long-exposure image shows one of many sky lanterns going up and away as guests participate in the lighting of their lanterns after each writing his or her secret wish on the paper shell during our final evening at Zancudo LodgeAdrian E. Gray