Panama: High Class ProblemsJuly 9, 2012
The West Coast Fishing Club in Panama has been experiencing some large problems of late. Specifically, we have a hard time keeping some of the things we buy looking nice and new. The culprits that lie at the heart of this vexation are not the likely candidates—the marine environment versus steel ship kind of thing, but rather something much more intrinsic to our fishery. The most visible example of this is the popper.
We put together a big tackle order, including some pretty intense items. We have hundreds of yards of 400 pound monofilament leader, line strong enough to not only with stand the abrasive bill of big black and blue marlin, but also stout enough to be used as a life line in case Rosie O’Donnell ever fell off the Pacific Provider. We have top of the line spinning reels that use 80 pound braided line, capable of putting upwards of 50 pounds of drag on whatever kind of fish you are trying winch out of the sea. These reels require stout, flexible rods capable of both throwing a popper 60 yards and not snapping upon the strike of a 100 pound tuna travelling 40 miles per hour upon impact. Our troubles read less like a fishing report and more like a college physics problem. We recently purchased just such rods and have been putting them to good use. Lots of tuna, no broken rods.
We have dozens and dozens of marlin circle hooks that are the size of your palm. We have braided cable that is rated for 920 pounds (it is great for using on outriggers and for making hook rigs for trolling lures). We have 8 pound line and 12 pound line, for our quest for big dorado and roosterfish on light tackle. We brought down organizers and wall mounted hook bars to help with organize the tackle shop on the Provider. The tackle shop used to be a king crab storage tank when the vessel fished crab in the Bering Sea before being refitted into her current manifestation. It’s a pretty neat deal.
With all the great new tackle and all the exciting projects we have ongoing here in Panama, it is the popper that is for me the most interesting quandary of all. Poppers are surface lures that are used to catch tuna offshore as well as entice the likes of cubera snapper, roosterfish, and all manner of assorted jacks inshore. They are not only highly effective for catching fish, but also produce perhaps the most exciting strikes that fishing has to offer. When a 150 pound yellowfin explodes on a popper, the white water produced could as likely have been caused by someone dropping a cow into the ocean. When a 50 pound cubera snapper takes a popper, it doesn’t look like a fish attack. It looks like a hand grenade blew up where the popper was. When the crest of a roosterfish appears behind the popper, often pulsating in excitement, everyone on the boat screams and hollers. Poppers are great fun.
At the West Coast Fishing Club in Panama we have invented a new game. It’s called “Kill the popper.” Basically involves taking a brand new, beautifully painted popper and destroying it. It really doesn’t take very long down here. We brought new poppers as part of the recent tackle order. In two and a half days of exploratory inshore and offshore fishing we have demolished several poppers. One used to be purple and black. After the tuna and the cubera snapper, it literally looks like it was mauled by a tiger. Where the snapper grabbed it, there are indentations from teeth that look like bullet holes. We have another that was blue and white. A tuna hit it, knocked it seven feet out of the water without being hooked. When it landed, another tuna grabbed it and smoked drag before being invited to dinner. Were poppers living things, these two would have post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, I think the poppers would last us longer if instead of using them for fishing, we ran them over with trucks, put them into blenders, or hit them with hammers.
Popper destruction is great fun. We have a big pile of broken, chewed, gnashed and gnarled lures that attest to how good the fishing here is. Come fishing with us, we’ll ruin not only poppers, but your desire to fish much anywhere else.