Skip to main content

Consistency Key for Clapp

Florida angler's one marlin a day enough in World Billfish championship

Consistency Key for Clapp
Consistency Key for Clapp

LOS SUENOS, Costa Rica — Under normal conditions, catching one marlin per day wouldn’t be news in this part of the Pacific Ocean renowned for its billfishing. But that proved to be a winning formula for Davis Clapp after fishing suddenly got tough under a December full moon during the World Billfish Series Grand Championships.

“They were little rats, 150 pounds maybe, nothing big,” Clapp said about the three blue marlin he caught during the three-day tournament. “I got lucky I didn’t find a 400-pounder.”

It’s points – 400 for each marlin, 100 for each sailfish ­– not pounds, that produce the winner in WBS events, and timing can mean everything. After two days the 28-angler field was cut to the top five point-scorers for the Dec. 10 final. Clapp and Brooks Smith each scored 400 points with a marlin, but Clapp’s blue marlin release came at 12:30 p.m. – 67 minutes before Smith’s striped marlin release – earning him the title in a tiebreaker.

Clapp has learned the importance of consistency during his 18 years of saltwater tournament fishing.

“There’s a saying in marlin fishing: don’t be surprised,” said Clapp. “It’s a simple saying, but it really means a lot. It means don’t get surprised when the fish shows up.

“I’ve had a lot practice. Up until a couple of years ago, I was fishing 14 or 15 tournaments a year. Consistency and having a high percentage, that’s how you win tournaments.”

As for Clapp calling himself “lucky” for not hooking a 400-pounder, again, it’s about points, not pounds. Obviously, it doesn’t help your chances if you spend hours battling a big fish during one of these catch-and-release events.

Check out 2011 WBS Championships photo galleries:

“I hooked one a couple of years ago in the Boy Scout tournament (in St. Thomas) that weighed between 700 and 800 pounds,” Clapp said. “That’s a really bad fish to catch. I fought it for two-and-a-half hours. That’s not what you want in a tournament.”

Clapp, 49, a Seattle native now living in West Palm Beach, Fla., won aboard Tijereta captained by Bubba Carter. In order to make the victory official, Clapp and Carpenter needed an assist from runner-up Smith and the crew of Uno Mas Bayliss.

“Bubba’s boat broke down,” Smith said. “We were probably about 12 miles ahead of them when they called us on the radio. We turned around and got their scorecard.”

Tijereta wasn’t going to make it back to the Los Suenos Marina in time to meet the deadline for turning in scorecards, so Smith and Uno Mas Bayliss did it for them, a gesture of sportsmanship not uncommon in these events.


“We caught what we saw, that was the good news,” Smith said about his performance in Saturday’s final. “We got one bite and caught a striped marlin.”

The bite was definitely off all week. Smith noted that 17 boats caught 80 billfish in one day of a tournament last week. The total for the WBS championship was 51 billfish over three days – 10 marlin and 41 sailfish.

“The conditions worsened that much in just a week,” said Smith, 55, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “For the last week we’ve had a really hard southeast current, and it just pumps in the green water. The fishing has just been hit or miss since then.”

That made for some low scores but also created some tight competition.

“All five guys had a chance to win until lines were out (at 3 p.m.),” said WBS president Jim Simons after Saturday’s final. “Up until the last minute, one fish could have changed everything.”

No one pushed the 3 p.m. daily deadline more than Chris Domel of Spicewood, Texas, on Friday. He qualified for the final when he hooked a marlin with three minutes left on the clock. In doing so, he bumped defending champion Gerard Aliseo out of Saturday’s final.

“We had a two-out, two-strike ninth-inning home run,” said Simons of Domel’s last-minute heroics. “In the last hour, 24 of the 28 anglers had an opportunity to be in the top five. That’s how close it was. You can’t ask for better than that.”

Domel admitted he thought his day was going to end in disappointment. He and Aliseo were tied with 400 points at the time, but Aliseo would have won the tiebreaker based on the time of his catch.

“I was done,” Domel said. “I thought it was pretty much over. I knew I needed another fish. I had a sailfish on earlier and it broke off 20 feet from the boat.”

Domel’s outlook changed when he saw the dorsal fin of a blue marlin break the surface behind a teaser line. Executing a “bait and switch,” Domel pitched a ballyhoo behind the teaser and enticed a strike.

“It was about 300 or 400 pounds,” Domel said. “It was a good fish. He screamed off about 150 yards. We got him really close, then he took off again.”

Points from the first two days didn’t carry over to the final, when Domel would finish fifth with two sailfish, worth 200 points. Matt Traber of Cape May, N.J., and Dwight Wolf of Newport News, Va., were the other two finalists. Each caught three sailfish, and Wolf won the tiebreaker.

Domel finished third in last year’s WBS championship, when both he and his father, Gary, qualified for the finals. To add some perspective on how tough fishing was in this year’s event, Domel had 1,600 points to lead that field after two days last year, and Aliseo scored 1,100 points in the final to win it.

“We try to have it where the fish are,” said Simons, in noting this was the sixth straight year for the WBS championship at Los Suenos Resort and Marina. The year-ending event was the culmination of 50 qualifying tournaments held around the world with more than 10,000 anglers participating, according to Simons.

And it should be noted that tough fishing here would qualify as extraordinary in most places. Wolf, aboard Dragin Fly, vaulted into Saturday’s final with 900 points Friday after zeroing Thursday. He recorded a billfish grand slam that day with a striped marlin, a blue marlin and a sailfish.

“It’s the slowest fishing has ever been here in this tournament,” Wolf said. “But it’s still world class fishing at a world class resort with world class fishermen.”

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Sometimes you have to fish a bait that allows you to cover a lot of water efficiently. When you're on the search for bass that have moved into deeper water off the bank and away from obvious holding spots, a swimbait can locate them.

On the Search with Swimbaits

One of the best imitations of a wounded baitfish is the soft-plastic jerkbait, or fluke. A fluke darting just beneath the surface can be too much for a bass to resist. Rig it and fish it according to water conditions and cover to make this great bait even more effective.

Fun with Flukes

There are three models in SPRO's Outsider crankbait series: 55 (runs 3-4 feet), 60 (7-9) and 80 (19-21). Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley goes over the specifics at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

SPRO's New Outsider Crankbait Series: First Look

Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley highlights the features of SPRO's new lures at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Essential Series Spinnerbaits and Buzzbaits from SPRO

Syd Ribes with Sea Falcon highlights four new lures for saltwater fishing. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Lineup of Lures from Sea Falcon

Syd Ribes highlights two new saltwater lures from SPRO: Flutter Tail Shrimp and Cannon Ball Jig. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Saltwater Lures from SPRO

AFTCO's Matt Florentino highlights the features of the new Barricade cold-weather suit, a Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022 in Orlando. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

New from AFTCO: Barricade Cold Weather Tactical Gear

Three-time ICAST Best of Category winner Bubba covers it all with new knives set. With Bubba's Matt Kinamore and Game & Fish's  Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

4-in-1 Bubba Multi Flex Cutlery Kit

The innovative landing net will weigh and measure your catch while it's still in the net. Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

Award-Winning Frabill Witness Net 'Keeps You Honest'

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now