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Billfishing with Bubba Carter

One of the the world’s best sport fishermen grew up here and operates a charter in Costa Rica. 

Story by Collins Doughtie

Lowcountry native Capt. Bubba Carter operates a sport fishing charter at Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Costa Rica. Charter packages range from $2,400 to $3,200 per day. Learn more at captbubbacarter.com.

When I was asked to write for this “Latin Issue,” two words instantly came to mind — “Costa Rica” and “Bubba Carter.” Wait a second, let’s make that four words. Yeah I know, the name “Bubba” doesn’t make you think of palm trees, deserted beaches, Spanish-speaking people or a cool rum drink, but stick with me. 

Having traveled and fished throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, Costa Rica is my go-to country. One day you can be whitewater rafting on Class 5 rapids, the next you’re soothed in warm thermal pools while watching an active volcano do its thing. While in Costa, I spend every free moment in and around the Pacific Ocean. There are white sand beaches, pink sand beaches and black sand beaches with toucans and howler monkeys serenading this paradise from dawn until dusk. I could go on and on about the wonderful food, friendly people or my lucky encounter with a blue morpho butterfly, but this time around, let’s talk all things “Bubba.”

Home-grown right here in the Lowcountry, Bubba Carter worked his way up the fishing ladder to heights that make me drool like an old bloodhound. Having grown up in Jasper County, he began charter fishing right out of school, following in his father Eddie Carter’s footsteps. One of only a handful of charter captains in the mid-1970s, Bubba would run his dad’s boat, the “Pilot Boy.” 

From there, he traveled the world to places like Australia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and all points in between in search of one type of fish in particular – billfish. For those not familiar with billfish, they are the crème de la crème for most any sport fisherman. 

Starting with smaller sailfish, the billfish family includes white, blue and black marlin, swordfish and spearfish, and Bubba has caught them all. To date, he has landed over 30,000 billfish, holds 18 world records and on one occasion pulled off a one-in-a-million “Fantasy Grand Slam,” catching five different billfish species in one day. Just last fall his dad called to tell me Bubba had landed 28 blue marlin the day before. Say what? Even more outrageous, he has boated 11 “Granders” or marlin weighing over 1,000 pounds. Now that’s just sick!

Without revealing our ages, Bubba and I are close in age, and on a recent visit here we were talking and discovered that back in the day we competed for the affections of the same girl. On the subject of women, I got to meet his drop-dead gorgeous bride Viviana. Hailing from Venezuela, she handles all of Bubba’s bookings, which is probably a great thing because most fisherman are horrible dealing with that end of the business. Having graced the covers of many of the top billfish magazines, Bubba was awarded the IGFA’s (International Gamefish Association) Tommy Gifford Award. What makes this award so prestigious is the winner is chosen by the best of the best of his peers in the billfish world. 

I could go on and on about this man but would rather finish by describing the majesty of a hooked marlin. When a big blue takes a bait, that first jump is so powerful it often freezes the angler. I have seen this happen many times especially when it is his or her first marlin. Instead of reeling, their mouth is usually agape, eyes impossibly wide while the marlin greyhounds across the surface of the ocean with apparent ease. I can remember every moment of every marlin I have ever caught. I seriously doubt that Bubba can remember such things, but if you want to fulfill the ultimate fishing bucket list, then Bubba Carter and his 43-foot boat, the Tijereta (“frigate bird” in Spanish) is your ticket to ride.


Bubba by the numbers

30,000: Billfish released

18: World records

2011: Nominated Captain of the Year

5: Different billfish species caught in one day 

11: Marlin caught weighing over 1,000 pounds 

28: Blue marlin caught in one day 

(Top) Bubba’s first “Grander,” 1,025 pounds. (Below) This “Grander” weighed 1,234 pounds.