Written by Stan Gabruk of Master Baiter’s
Yesterday I posted an article designed to inform and enlighten you on the “in’s and out’s” of a Fishing Charter Business and all the complications. Mexico as a third world country does it’s best to insure your safety and that boats comply with the laws. The simple fact, like the United States, laws that aren’t enforced are only laws when there is an incident or situation where the law was clearly broken. Of course as a vacationer or tourist what you don’t know, will hurt you. There’s more to getting a good fishing trip or fishing product than the cheapest price. As we continue what seems basic, isn’t. At Master Baiter’s I have seveal licenses I’m not sure the other fishing companies have. Now Vallarta Adventures and the tour groups are a different thing. But when it comes to fishing, how confident are you that your expectations will be met at whatever price you’re paying? Lets continue….
Lets Talk Equipment / Tackle: Sportfishing makes the expense of Golf look like nothing in comparison. When it comes to Big Game or Deep Sea Fishing here in Puerto Vallarta (PV), where it’s very possible to boat a world record fish, you just know it’s going to be expensive. If you compare a rig as I call it, or a fishing pole / reel set-up to that of a bag of golf clubs (about the same cost, balls and all), you could spend between $1,200.00 to $2,000.00 usd dollars in the blink of an eye. Take this number, multiply it by ten to fifteen times and you’ll have a basic idea of the minimum requirements for a professional charter boat when it comes to poles, reels, line and lures. If you’re looking for smaller fish inshore or larger fish at El Banco or Corbetena, you have to have the correct rig for the species targeted and for conditions that day. Mix in hooks, line, Flouro Carbon leader (expensive), gaffs, harnesses, swivels ($15 usd each), Kites, Down Riggers etc. , the list just goes on and on. Nothing is cheap, tack 30% on to the normal USA cost for these items just because you’re buying them in Mexico and you start to see what we’re talking about. You can try sneaking it in, but good luck, they love finding new fishing gear in suitcases as they’re checked in Customs.
Now the Charter Boat that doesn’t have the best equipment and tackle, well this will become obvious when you head out and snap the line ten times in one day on a boat who is using stressed line….. We all lose fish, but not a bunch in a row from broken line. If this happens it’s old, chaffed, and ready for the trash bin. The Angler spending a thousand dollars for a trip to catch Moby Dick deserves much more than the opportunity to lose a fish on a half full spool of stressed line.
That’s another point, Getting spooled in this day and age is unacceptable and you should never go on a boat that doesn’t have Spectra Backed reels. Especially when you’re looking at Grander Marlin and Monster Yellowfin tuna from June to Mid January! Once you’ve boated or fought a larger billfish or Yellowfin Monster you’ll be glad you had new line. But even then, the life span of the line is between five and ten big fish, especially billfish. The fishing line these days are designed to perform, but not forever. It stretches and gets chaffed by bills, sun, salt and age. Fresh line on full reels is very easy to see and is an indicator for what you could expect on that charter boat. So the next time you’re out choosing a charter, ask to see the equipment if possible. The whole day will depend on the mere fact that the charter boat owner spends fifty dollars to reline a reel so these things won’t happen for the worse constantly. But remember, like I said earlier, breaking line is part of the game, but not ten times in one day! Everyone wants to save a buck or two, but make sure you get what you think you’re paying for, not what your wallet tells you. You’re better off waiting another year and doing it right with the opportunity to have the time of your life….
Let’s talk about the service end of the business:I’ve talked before on how people look for a charter company. First they may check out the internet at home, but many wait until they come down to Puerto Vallarta to get the “feel” of the area. First they talk with the guy who gets their luggage to the taxi at the airport when you first arrive. Then he’ll talk with the taxi driver, Next comes the concierge at the hotel, the waiter in the restaurant, people around the pool and finally he’ll find his way to Marina Vallarta and walk the gauntlet. There are companies in Marina Vallarta that are the flavor of the month. One guy or company which just sprung up this past summer went out of business selling Roasted Chicken and now books really cheap boats out of Los Penas Marina. They’ve got a nice, cheap office with pretty furniture and a nice logo to impress you. Then also got a guy who’s standing on the board walk (or walking the boardwalk) asking you if you need anything from a tour to a fishing charter. Now this guy can’t tell you what kind of baits are working right now, but he’s quick to talk of his twelve boats. Of course he can’t remember the names of but two, but he’s got twelve!
Check out internet travel forum sites about the area or sites like Trip Adviser, World Wide Fishing Guide or Fodor’s travel guide, where slouch companies can’t afford the price of participation. Look for recommendations from travel agencies, articles, travel guides again like Fodor’s, the hotel concierge, but locals that live in the area are always the best. Word of mouth is still the best advertising. Vacationers and travelers in general are always more than willing to share their experiences, especially bad experienced. I’ve always found that flattering words may go unsaid, but a bad time will get plenty of volume when it’s time to speak of horrible experiences
Service is first and foremost, no matter how much you paid for your day on the water. Naturally lower cost providers should come with lowered expectations. Having said that, I don’t care if you live in Mexico or on Mars, service is a basic fact of life in any business. Service doesn’t cost the operator or Owner a thin dime more than he’s already spending. It all comes down to getting the most from your people and making sure clients are not only having fun, but are being provided the service they don’t know they need. Do they meet you on time at an agreed to meeting place? Is the boat fueled up with bait and ice, ready to go? Are there any money issues that you’re unaware of until that moment of departure (This happens all the time)? Do you have your contact persons phone number if need be? Do you know your boats name / location? All important stuff that should not be a mystery! Was the crew courteous and pleasant? Do they interact with you? Do they listen to your request? Do they release when informed of this desire or not? Did they tell you they speak English, just to later discover they know ten words of English? This and the list could go on for ever.
And in conclusion, fuel cost. Fuel cost drive everything, mainly the cost of the boat. Now one trick used by less reputable boats is the old “troll to the fishing grounds” like as the boat is actually fishing. The deal here is a Mexican will never lose money. What they will do is try and get you to believe things so they can get away with saving money at your expense or rather fish catching expense. So here’s the deal, they may want to leave early in the morning because the sun comes up a bit later. With trash and logs etc in the water if you hit one, it will ruin your fishing day. So they have to go slowly if it’s dark. So they have a “reasonable” excuse to go slowly, right? Well if they wait just a little later, they can see the obstacles when the sun is up. Then when the boats gets into a safe area, they’ll drop baits and troll at eleven miles an hour, too fast to catch fish. But it gets you to the fishing grounds a little quicker and of course you “think” your fishing, you’re not amigos. You’re trolling too fast for a fish to pay attention. Now you may get “lucky” but you’re not fishing. If heading to the Marietta islands, 28 miles out from Marina Vallarta, this will take better than two hours. Not acceptable, it sucks up your fishing time saving fuel, this is at your expense. But you saved money, so the blame is not on the boat, it’s on you. A reputable company will wait a little longer, especially on a shorter day trips to match the bite. But normally boats will head out at 25 miles per hour. In comparison getting you to the Marietta Islands in one hour, not two. These other boats will also “troll” fishing back. Again, they’re leaving the fishing grounds early, saving fuel on the way back yet going too fast to catch a fish. They get back in time to meet the wife for dinner and you lose four hours of an eight hour day in travel. By comparison, a licensed company will head out quickly, get you to the fishing grounds quickly, use your fishing charter time more efficiently or even give you some extra time fishing if the bite is on.
Now to be fair, there are time if you’re leaving for say a ten or twelve hour trip that will leave earlier, especially if the bite is early. But in these situations we’ll give you the extra time it took to get to the fishing grounds making sure you get what you paid for. So nothing is 100% but with this information it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out your situation on the way out.
The bottom line is to ask the pertinent questions upfront. Now that doesn’t mean you’ll hear the truth, but you should ask. Any person who doesn’t know what to ask will find they’ve been taken advantage of. Now you have legal options, I’ve never seen a person take a day or two of their vacation time to recover any money because it’s just too much trouble. So read the reviews on Tripadvisor. If you see some company with over a hundred positive comments, well that’s impossible for a real company. There are people you can pay or you can have your friends post for you, there’s a Tripadvisor mafia out there. When you do see a bad comment, look at what they’re really talking about. Some people will complain in an effort to get money back for “not posting a negative” comment on their page. I’ve even had clients come in and threaten to write a bad comment on me if I don’t give them free T-shirts when those people didn’t even go fishing with us! With so many companies using my name, it happens, but It’s still a mafia for Tripadvisor. So review things the best you can. Ask your friends, look for longevity, but anyone can say they’re the “oldest and Best” fishing company in Puerto Vallarta, until they’re not!
All very important things to consider when choosing a charter company… Hopefully this give you some insight on the ups and downs of booking fishing trips anywhere. These are good things to remember when you go to Hawaii, Australia or anywhere there is world class fishing and those taking the “low road” with their expense cutting measures that steal your time.
Of course it all doesn’t end here, but that’s another article.