Cast & Blast

29,000 billfish. 3,000 blue marlin. How Lowcountry’s Bubba Carter made world hall of fame

For non-fisherman and fisherwomen, I would imagine the allure of angling just doesn’t rank up there on their bucket list in life. Maybe they think there is no skill involved. All you do is put a bait on a hook and sit there, sometimes for hours, waiting on some stupid fish to bite. Now golf takes skill and concentration, but fishing? Naw.

Au contraire, my ball chasers.

To be a good angler, it takes years of observation, experimentation and knowledge. To be a great angler, it takes a lifetime.

There are literally thousands upon thousands of variables that must be considered each and every time you head out. Thinking back on the countless hours I have spent on the water, no two days have been the same. Wind direction, water temperature, the lure color and knowing the habits of each species, plus a multitude of other factors, make the difference between success and the agony of defeat.

If you are wondering why am I rambling on about this, then let me impart a story about one of our most famous anglers, Capt. Bubba Carter and his boat Tijereta.

SC Lowcountry native Bubba Carter aboard his charter boat Tijereta in Costa Rica has been recognized as one of the world’s all-time best fishermen. Submitted

I’ll start by telling you that he hails from a family of anglers.

His dad, Eddie Carter of Jasper County, was one of a very small group that pioneered the recreational fishing industry here in the Lowcountry.

I still remember his boats, the Pilot Boy and the Point Comfort, back when I was first learning the ins and outs of fishing, especially offshore.

His sons, Jeff and Bubba, both followed his lead, becoming charter captains here.

South Carolina heroics

Unlike the clean, clear waters south in Florida and beyond, our dingy waters require a ton more observation to locate and successfully catch fish. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in places like the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and Mexico and when I tell captains where I am from, almost always they say that South Carolina fisherman sure know their stuff. I credit that with the simple fact that around here you have to be willing to work harder to achieve success on any given day.

With that said, Eddie’s son Bubba took that knowledge to new heights.

Just last week he received the IGFA’s (International Game Fish Association) elite Tommy Gifford Award, joining the ranks of past winners like Jose Wejebe, Buddy Merritt, Jimmy Albright and others world-famous captains.

Chosen by his peers, Bubba’s accomplishments are mind-blowing.

Thus far, he has landed 29,000 billfish of which over 3,000 were blue marlin.

Currently living and fishing in Costa Rica, he has traveled the world in search of billfish, including places like the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Venezuela and Australia.

In Australia, he landed 11 marlin over 1,000 pounds (called Granders) and not that long ago in Costa Rica he boated 28 blue marlin in a single day. That’s insane!

He told me on that epic day he saw 60 or more blue marlin and had at least 35 attempt to take one of their baits. Having caught my share of blue marlin, that number is incomprehensible and makes my back hurt just thinking about tangling with that many fish in a single day.

New ways

One of Bubba’s best friends in Costa, who also hails from here, is Dean Jacobs (aka: Bulldog). He was Bubba’s first mate for a long stretch of time and I was lucky enough to have fished with him back when I learned much of my offshore knowledge from another fishing pioneer around here, Capt. Buddy Hester.

Bulldog was Buddy’s mate and I learned a ton by watching him. Rigging Spanish mackerel, split tail mullet and other natural baits for hours on end — but like any fishery, oh how things change as new techniques come along.

According to Bubba, the advent of FAD’s (Fish Aggregating Device) has taken catching billfish to whole new level.

Basically, a FAD is a vertical artificial reef anchored to the bottom and extends all the way to the surface. It attracts small baitfish which attract larger predators and on up the food chain it goes, all the way to highly sought-after super predators like sailfish, blue marlin, black marlin and monster yellowfin tuna.

Another change from old-school rigging natural baits, Bubba only trolls hookless teasers that create a fish-attracting ruckus and bubble trails and once a billfish is seen trying to eat a teaser, it is pulled in and a pitch bait with a hook is dropped back in its place.

Thanks to new conservation efforts, circle hooks prevent these grand fish from swallowing the hook, allowing them to be safely released to fight another day.

So, way to go, Bubba. You have made all of us fishermen here in the Lowcountry proud, and tops among them is your father, Eddie.