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A Lifetime of Achievement: An Interview with Martha McNabb

Rebecca Ehrenberg from world-renowned Pisces Sportfishing Fleet in Cabo San Lucas sat down with legendary angler Martha McNabb to discuss a fascinating range of topics, from the experience of being a female angler in a male-dominated sport to this year’s Marina Puerto Escondido tournament in Loreto, where they were part of the team that took first place.

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Angler Martha McNabb and team lifting the tournament’s trophy at Loreto (May 2022)

Q: How did you get into fishing and how long have you been fishing for?
Is it related to how you got to Buena Vista? How did this all come about?

A: I first came to Buena Vista in 1973 or 1974, visiting friends here. We got to know some people in what used to be a trailer park that was owned by Buena Vista, and I ultimately became friends with John Russell and his wife Carolyn. He lived there permanently and sort of took me under his wing and taught me how to fish. I did my first fishing with him on a panga.

Q: And then from there, what happened? I mean, now you have a 66 ft
boat and are known to some as Mrs. Badass. How’d that happen?

A: Well, my husband Rick and I got the bug after John got us hooked and we started out with a 24 ft Chris Craft that we bought in Newport beach and ultimately trailered down here. And we fished out of that for a while until we had a pretty good size blue marlin alongside the boat one day, and everybody came to the side of the boat to look at it. The boat leaned over and we decided that maybe that boat wasn’t quite big enough to do marlin fishing! Then we went through a number of different boats, from a 26 ft Kenyon, to a 31 ft Innovator, to a 38 ft Chris Craft, to a 50 ft Herter, to a 58 ft Viking, to a 61 ft Viking, and now our 66 ft Viking.

Q: Why would you say that you love fishing and especially love fishing here in the Cabo area?

A: I love fishing in Cabo because there’s so much activity. There’s so many different species to target and pretty much there’s fishing all year long. Every once in a while, we have a period that’s slow but for the most part, every month of the year we can fish down here and there’s a lot of variety. It’s interesting and it stays interesting, and that’s why I like fishing here. Southern California sport fishing is pretty boring by comparison. We gave that up a while ago. Actually I fished in a number of different places all over the world but quite honestly, I think Cabo has more to offer. I can’t think of any place else I would rather be on a permanent basis. I know Panama and other places with wonderful fishing. But Cabo really has it all, when you consider how much is available and how much of the time it is available.

Fishing in Cabo is interesting and stays interesting all through the year. I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be on a permanent basis.

Martha McNabb

Q: You always fish tournaments and you do the whole tournament circuit in Cabo. You are also one of the few renowned female anglers in these tournaments. What is your experience in this regard?

A: Pretty much, yes, I do all the tournaments here. I think when we first
started fishing tournaments it was in the 58 ft Viking and that was in the mid-1990s. I think I’m the only woman who’s ever won the Bisbee’s, except for Linda Williams. There was a year with Linda that was pretty extraordinary. The two biggest fish on the last day. They were huge fish and caught by women. I came in after her. That’s probably the only tournament that’s ever happened in. That was the same tournament that a sailboat took one of the other prizes, too. Being a female angler in a male-dominated sport has never really been an issue for me. I’ve always had a crew that has been totally supportive of me. No, for me personally, it’s never been an issue. I’ve had the opportunity of fishing with a lot of really, really top male anglers and captains. I’ve fished with top people. Kevin McNamara in Hawaii taught me a whole lot about pitching toothfish, and drag, and that sort of thing. In the day when my Michael was around, and Steve, I had the opportunity of being around some of the really top people in the sport. They’ve been very supportive of me. I’ve never really had any negativity, at least none that I was ever aware of.

Q: Yes. Also, I don’t think you would take any negativity or BS from

A: Not usually, no!

Q: Now, about the Loreto tournament. How was that different for you?

A: Well, the Loreto tournament is really a fun tournament for a lot of reasons. It’s really fun fishing, but that’s hard fishing, too. There’s a lot of action going on as you well know! Pretty busy day with fish on the bow, fish in the basket, fish going around the boat. I mean there’s a lot going on. Several people have tried to put on slight long release tournaments over the years, and it’s always been something that’s been kind of difficult to pull together. They just didn’t quite work out. But in Loreto it’s different, and that makes it great. The Loreto tournament, first of all, is in such a beautiful location. That’s a beautiful place to fish. They’ve done a wonderful dock there with that marina. It’s really first-class. Everybody there, they’re all into it, 100%. They’re doing everything they can to make everybody as comfortable as possible and to accommodate everybody’s wishes as much as possible. It’s also fun because we were all on the dock on the boat all night long, so everybody was there. There was a lot of camaraderie between the different teams that you don’t get so much in the bigger tournaments, where everybody comes down in the morning, they fish all day and go home. Often, there isn’t the back and forth between the teams. That was fun, I thought.

Marina Puerto Escondido fishing tournament, Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico (May 2022)

Q: I think the biggest difference from the other tournaments is that in this one you won first place. You were saying you always got second. How did that feel?

A: To have won first place is definitely the icing on the cake for sure!

Q: What are you most proud of in your fishing career?

A: It was pretty exciting when I got my billfish slam, because I think at the time I got it, it was only seven women in the world who had ever gotten a billfish slam. That was exciting. That was fun because I had to go a lot of different places to get to different species. I fished in the Virgin Islands and I fished in Kona. I got my Atlantic sailfish in a very beautiful location. I got my White Island off of the coast of Columbia, heading to the Panama Canal. That was fun, being able to fish in a lot of different places. When you fish in different places, you learn a lot because every place you go is just different. They all have different techniques and they all have different ways of doing things. A definite highlight was the 314-pound yellowfin tuna we once caught. That was a treat. It happened on Mother’s Day, and it was really busy. When we looked at tuna, we didn’t know what it was, and we didn’t know what it was until we almost had it on the boat because the water was so dirty and so off-color, so we couldn’t see what we had. It was crazy. When we finally got that fish aboard, it’s like, oh my goodness. Ricky, my captain then said, “Martha, you got your 200-pound tuna.” I went, “Oh, good, great.” I said, then, “let’s keep fishing because we did it.” I went down below and looked at the world records. Then I thought, “Oh no!” I got a tape out. I did the formula. I got them back up at the bridge and said, “you guys usually like going under. It’s not 200!” That changed everybody’s ideas. It was funny, too, because when we did go in to weigh it we couldn’t get it weighed because they didn’t have a certified scale. 24 hours later, we got back to Cabo and got it weighed. It of course had lost a lot of weight by then, but that was exciting, anyway!

Q: That same week, another female anger had a fish, the same exact size that would’ve put you at the world record, correct?

A: Candace Meyer was fishing in Ghana and she had already submitted a world record. I can’t remember, but I think hers was 314. I think if I remember correctly, mine was outweighed when we finally got it to the scale. That was right after I caught it, four hours later. It might have been a world record, but you never know about those things. That was a little disappointing to find out.

All of the guys that I’ve had the opportunity to fish with In Cabo are serious and professional, they work hard at it.

Martha McNabb

Q: You have an awesome crew that’s pretty legendary in Cabo. Would you like to say a little bit about your crew and the local Cabo fishermen?

A: I can speak about the group of people who fished on my boat, as I haven’t fished on any of the charter boats in Cabo. My observation is that the guys in Cabo are all really good. For the most part, they really know what they’re doing and they work hard. All of the guys that I know that I’ve been around, that I’ve had the opportunity to fish with, they’re serious and professional, they work hard at it. Every place here has a star, a name, or two well-known names. I think the Cabo guys can hold their own bit to anybody. Clearly, that’s been proven over the years with the success in general. The guys we’ve had in the different tournaments, all the different tournaments are really top notch. Most of them are a lot of fun, too! I don’t even know what to say about my guys. They’re so good. They’re just so good. They’re wonderful people. All of them. Tony, my captain, is very professional and he works really hard at what he does. They don’t leave anything to chance. They work at everything, so I can’t give them high enough praise. Another member of my crew has only been with us for a year now, but he’s terrific. He’s just steady and always there and with a smile on his face and he’s great. I can’t give any of them high enough grade. I love them all so they are my family. When you spend that much time with people, you better be able to get along with them! It wouldn’t’ be much fun otherwise.

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