Okuma Captain Spotlight- Keith Denette – The Constitution

We had the chance to sit down with Captain Keith Denette of the sportfishing vessel The Constitution who runs part of the year out of San Diego California, and part of the year out of Puerto Vallarta Mexico.  Keith owned and ran the Maximus for many years until it went down, and built quite the business on that boat.  Known for comfortable trips and big fish, Keith has come full circle in the industry, and we are proud to have him as part of the Okuma family.

Okuma- How long have you been in and around the fishing industry?

Keith- My whole life. Been Rodin reelin’ since I was 4. Had this crazy addiction to catch fish. Got a little serious when I was 11 years old when I worked on the Ellie M for Bob Levy in 1982 as a deckhand and deckboss Jon Barriqutro showed me what was up. Mom did not like me working on sportboats.

Keith at Fred Hall Long Beach

O- What got you started?

KD- My Father introduced me to river and lake fishing. My brother hated fishing and he would always take him over me. Totally sucked. He was 5 years older then me but  that was ok. Still found a way to fish the docks and beaches.

 

O- You have been a key player in the San Diego Long Range game for quite some time.  What are some of the boats you have worked on?

KD- Never been a key player at all. Always did what is right and always put my family and crew first. The rest falls where it needs to go. Always exceed our anglers expectations and never short them. Small boat knowledge when I was a kid mostly out of Channel Islands harbor Sea Watch, Ellie M, Morning Star, New Bluefin, Estrella. Worked my first yacht at 20 yrs old. Then it went all uphill from there. Channel Islands, San Diego, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. 40 to 72 footers. Calico bass to Giant yellowfin tuna. Bought Nicole and I our first home on Marlin tournament winnings at Catalina Island.

Constitution Yellowfin Tuna Puerto Vallarta

O- Clearly you had to work your way up to becoming a captain, and one of the premier captains at that, but what duties did you have along the way that most aspiring Sportfishing captains might not know they may end up doing? 

KD- Cleaning heads, vomit, etc.

KD- Still clean vomit from time to time. There is no rank on my vessel. Get it done attitude. If you wait for some one to get the job done for you. You may not have a job when we hit the dock. I have lived a life of cleaning and customer service. I have instilled it in my children and they follow it daily.

Constitution Yellowfin Tuna Puerto Vallarta

O- What year did you purchase your fist boat, and how did that all come about?

KD- Bought serveral skiffs not boats. Rod and reeled seabass and halibut and always enjoyed being on the water. My son Hunter wanted to work on sportboats and I chose to work with him and teach him right. We ran a 6 pk job in Channel Islands. Fished exclusively seabass and halibut. Purchased the Maximus together with the profits in one season together around 2007.

Constitution Yellowfin

O- With so much time on the water and south of the border, what made you take a serious look at the PV area and focusing your business on that area? 

KD- Fished Cabo San Lucas for a few years and had a great opportunity to run a 32′ Topaz for a highly respected friend from Ventura. He gave me the first opportunity to fish giant yellowfin tuna on my own. Been fishing Puerto Vallarta for 200 plus days a year for years then I can remember.

Constitution Yellowfin

O- The Maximus was well known as THE premier PV boat if you wanted to get down and catch big fish regularly.  How long did it take you to establish yourself in PV and gain a steady following?

KD- It took time. I was born In Port Hueneme California and my mother was born in Mexico City. Most of my family is from Guadalajara. I was able to get duel citizenship and start a business without any problems. I enjoy employing the locals of Puerto Vallarta. There I was able to get permits to operate.  I would run trips with 2-4 anglers. Whoever could get the time to come down I would run and take them fishing.  Very little food was put on the table at that time. Our family stuck together and made the best of what we have. May have not been the best desicions in life or the standard way of operation but I gave it my best. I give all the credit to my friend Brandon Hayward for showing me the light and released the first article in Western Outdoor News. Multiple page write up “Cow Fishing Vegas Style”

Constitution Double

Constitution Yellowfin

O- With what happened to the Maximus a couple years ago, did you have a plan to get back into a boat right away and continue on?  Was there some hesitation?

KD- Yes there was some hesitation. I was in a sort of depression. Not knowing what will happen. First time Nicole and I were unemployed and needed assistance. I was ready to take any job and do what ever it took to put food on the table and hang on to what we had. A fish Market came to mind. What turned the table was our solid customer base that insisted we keep the deposits for our upcoming season. They some how knew I was not out of the game. They were willing to wait a couple years for us to find the right boat. That inspired Nicole and I to find something that was safe and larger then what we had.

Sword Fight

Constitution Sportfishing

O- How did the purchase of the Constitution come about?

 

KD- Nicole and I walked the docks in San Diego and literally spent every day, all day on yacht world, dockstreet, and every resource we could find online. All it led up to was disappointment. One after another seemed we could make this one work or another. I had this crazy feeling a sportboat was going to pop up on the screen. Never happend. We made a full asking offer in Ketchikan Alaska to find out the seller got cold feet. One wall after another. Then one day we had lunch at a hotel in San Diego on our regular drives to San Diego and I decided to contact Frank Ursitti.

Constitution Sportfishing

O- Now that you guys are in full swing, how many trips a year are you guys running down in PV, and up in SD?

KD- Not sure how many trips I run. Honestly I leave that to my wife Nicole. All I know is I work everyday from Oct to May. Do some maintenance in May/June then I run everyday at the end of June to October. I think I’m on the water a little more then 300 days a year.

Triple

O- It has been incredible to see such huge fish coming over the rail regularly for you guys.  What is it about you that brings monster fish to the boat?

Monster Yellowfin

KD- Patience. We are always changing our game here. As conditions change so do we. I am constantly messing with the rigging that we use. I think we discuss as a crew what leader we should be fishing on every trip. Hook size, reel size, leader size and so on…I give credit to my crew. Stand alone we have the best operators, Deckhand’s and chefs available. Proud to have the same crew up to 10 years. Our passengers see it and feel it when they come onboard.

Western Outdoor News Cover Shot

Bottom Fish Too

O- As tackle has evolved over the years, is there anything special that you look for in gear? 

KD- Absolutely. Without the proper tools we have nothing. We have the funding to buy anything available on the market. I could care less what this company wants to give us this and that. What we have chose to work with is by far the best tools we can use to land anything that swims in these waters.

 

Rail Rod

O- Clearly your clients are looking for an incredible experience, and gear makes the trip. Are there any go-to set ups that you grab right off the rail?

KD- Sure. Plain and simple. Cost effective equipment that gets the job done. Okuma Makaira 30’s and 50’s is what we have onboard. Love to see a Makaira 50 narrow. I think that may be a game changer. I could see us with 50 narrows, topless 50’s and 80’s in the future.

Makaira SEa family

Makaira internal look

O- Anything else you’d like to add about you and Nichole or the Constitution business in general?

KD- Well she is my soulmate. We have been together since she was 15 and I was 16. We started a rockcod/shrimpfly gangion business when we were 17 years old. I worked in the fishing industry all my life. We have children. Our Daughter Isabella is 16 years old and my son Hunter is 19. Hunter just passed his 100 ton Captains course. NIcole answers the phone. Gives all of our angler all the nessesary information to guide our anglers to the best experience they can have. She never had the opportunity to fish the Maximus and she just got her first experience on the Constitution and got to experience how easy a female can come down and have a chance to catch a giant yellowfin tuna. Well she caught a 185 and a 302 lber. First time on her own boat. Pretty awesome I may add..

 

To find out more information on booking trips for giant tuna aboard The Constitution, please visit their website at https://constitutionsportfishing.com/

 

Captain Todd Mansur and the Boardroom

Captain Todd Mansur operates the 65′ Hatteras sportfisher, The Boardroom. Fishing the elite-level offshore tournaments on the Pacific side of North and Central America, Mansur’s travels have him on the water every fishable day during tournament season. A key product tester of Okuma reels and rods, few have access to the strength of fisheries, for the duration, that Mansur’s tournament crew has. On the way to the 2011 Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin Tournament, Mansur kept some notes on both the fisheries encountered and the gear used that we thought we’d share with you…

Cedros Island Yellowtail

One of many Cedros Island yellowtail on a Cortez, Makaira rod combo.

This year in southern California was a challenge for every level of fisherman but just below our border, there was a terrific fishery brewing due to the currents and conditions that we have been missing. Our trip really started when we reached Cedros Island. With all of our inshore gear ready, we approached knowing that the Yellowtail fishing was on fire. We knew this was going to be our chance to fish some Okuma tackle that we had been admiring all season but hadn’t really been able to use much due to slow fishing in our local waters. In the arsenal of tackle to be used were the Cedros star drag 10 and the Cedros lever drag 10, along with the Cortez star drag 10 and one of my favorites, the Andros 5II. As we all know jigging and live bait fishing yellowtail is not only fun, but with fish weighing up to 40-pounds they can put inshore reels to a test. And test they did. Not one of the reels showed any signs of fatigue. We were fishing all these reels with Tuf-Line 65lb. braided line to 30lb. mono top shot. This combo was perfect for this application. The rods we were using were the Cedros jigging rods for the Cedros reels, Makaira rods for the Cortez reels and the awesome Cedros inshore rods on the Andros reel.

Magdalena Bay was holding quality wahoo on the troll.

I have to tell you guys, everyone on this trip has years of fishing experience. Aside from talking about how great the fishing was they couldn’t stop talking about how awesome the reels preformed. After a day of putting our tackle to the test, as well as our arms and backs, we started south for Mag Bay. Knowing that we would be seeing a great Dorado fishery down in Mag, we were very excited. Along with the Dorado we hoped to catch Wahoo as well and this meant it was time to get out some trolling gear. We paired up two Cavalla 30ll with the new Makaira 50lb. trolling rods and two Titus 30ll with the same and put out the Wahoo lures and some small Pakula Marlin lures. We thought this would be a great combo and it was. As soon as there was enough light we were hooked up. Dorado everywhere, again putting the inshore tackle to the test without failure. Throughout the day we released over fifty Dorado and boated three nice Wahoo. We really loved the action of the Makaira trolling rods they were beefy enough to pull hard, but still had great action to give the angler a thrill. Nice roller guides as well.

Grouper off Mag Bay

This Andros set up is spooled with 60lb. mono to 65lb. braid we went 4 for 10 on the groupers. We never stopped the big ones, even when I put 100lb. on the Cedros lever drag 10."

As we continued to fish Mag Bay each day was great. What a fishery.

There were days that we really put Okuma to the test.

This Andros set up is spooled with 60lb. mono to 65lb. braid we went 4 for 10 on the groupers. We never stopped the big ones, even when I put 100lb. on the Cedros lever drag 10. This was great. We really put the pressure on these fish to keep them out of the structure and again the tackle was bulletproof. At the end of the day it was like we just took the reels out of the box.

With fishing like this for over a week in Mag Bay we headed south to Cabo San Lucas to start pre fishing For the Bisbee Black and Blue Marlin Tournament.

The tuna bite at El Banco was solid, along with the black marlin that would have been nice to have off Cabo instead of PV.

Well guys this is the only sad part of this story. There were really no fish to catch. After 4 days off pre-fishing we couldn’t come up with a good strategy. There was just no fish biting so we just decided to fish lures and cover ground. After the three-day tournament all we had to show for was a sailfish release and an empty wallet. So off to Puerto Vallarta we went, hoping that we would get over the really sore fishing in Cabo. We did, however, get to show off the beautiful Makaira 80-ll. They drew lots of attention and I hope to get a chance soon to put them to the full test that I know they can live up to. As we approached PV, our hopes were high before even checking in to port we fished the first day at what is called El Banco. Thinking that maybe live bait fishing with small skipjack tuna would give us a chance at a large tuna we put out the 30ll Cavalla’s and the 30ll Titus. A 30-ll Makaira would be ideal. Anyway we were right, live bait fishing skipjack worked but it wasn’t a tuna on the line after 2 hours and 45 minutes. We had a 320lb. black marlin to leader. I know that these reels aren’t in the making any more, but they worked great and still work great after that test of strength. I’ll get you picks of that fish I haven’t put them into my computer as of yet. After that we knew we were going to enjoy the next couple of weeks here. The target here was tuna and tuna we found on most days. It was the gyro’s that got us located on tuna either under Dolphin or bird schools. We caught fish every day. With fish being picky some days we had to fish much lighter line than we wanted, so Okuma engineering really got put to the test. Here is one of the amazing fish we caught.

This was caught on a Makaira 10-ll with 100lb Tuf-Line braid to 130lb fluorocarbon leader with a #8 circle hook. There has never been a reel that I have been more proud, to have and to fish, with than the Makaira. WOW! I have made a great career as a fisherman and have fished every type of reel on the market and I will gladly argue anyone that says that Okuma is anything but superior to other reels. You guys have definitely done it right.

My many thanks to all of the Okuma staff!

Captain Todd Mansur