Describing fishing as long periods of boredom followed by frantic seconds of action was probably first written by a blue marlin fisherman. Who in their right mind enjoys riding around the deep blue ocean for hours on end, happy with just one encounter of the ocean’s apex predator—the blue marlin? Imagine yourself in the cockpit of a sportfisher looking aft at a boat wake and prop wash; lures and teasers bubbling for hours with no encounters. It’s boring!
Nick Smith is one of the world’s foremost billfish fly anglers. Here’s his rundown of what to expect and how to handle what happens between hook up and successful release of a blue marlin on the fly. The following assumes 20-pound class tippet (things change with lower test class tippets). This description begins with the strike, once the fish has taken the fly.
By Katie Coeckelenbergh
If it is your goal to fish and place consistently in any of the world’s best release tournaments, there is a certain set of practices that you’ll need to follow. Teams that place consistently do so not just with skill, but by adhering to a strenuous set of standards…one that doesn’t often include rod holders or cold beer during fishing hours. Here’s an insider’s look. (If you are a captain, this might be a good read for your tournament team as well). — ITB
(George Town, Cayman Islands) The Cayman Islands’ first-ever Cayman Billfish Rundown awarded more than US$260,000 in cash prizes to 14 teams hailing from both local and international shores. Held May 14-17 on Grand Cayman, 41 teams registered in the sportfishing tournament, presented by Hurley’s Media Ltd., Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire.
Managing Director of Hurley’s Media Ltd. Randy Merren said he was pleased with the outcome of the tournament. “It’s incredible to see Cayman Billfish Rundown come to life after a year of planning and preparations. We are grateful for the support from the local and international participants, and based on the feedback received, we expect even higher numbers next year,” Mr. Merren said.
Carey Chen brought his experience and expertise as the Official Artist and Tournament Ambassador, taking news of the tournament to global waters. “I’ve been fishing the Cayman Islands since Million Dollar month in the 80s. The offshore fishing is less than a mile from land in the clearest water you can imagine,” Mr. Chen said. “Cayman Billfish Rundown in its debut is one of the most organized tournaments I have been to and this will only get better,” he said.
The winning team, ‘Uno Mas’ from Florida, captained by Brooks Smith, released three billfish to win the top prize of US$100,000 for the Most Billfish Release Points and the Captain’s Award of US$10,000 presented to the Captain of the Boat with the Most Release Points. The team also entered seven additional categories that flexed its billfish skills and rewarded Uno Mas with additional payouts of more than US$16,000, making its total winnings for the tournament close to US$130,000.
In second place, ‘Happy Days’ from the Cayman Islands, took home US$35,000 for the second most billfish releases, as well as an additional US$2,250 for the smallest boat with the most billfish releases. Small boats were considered under 36 feet Length Over All (LOA).
Third place for most billfish release was tied, with seven teams earning equal points through catching and releasing a Blue Marlin. Down to time stamps, ‘Suntide’ took home third place and US$20,000, inching ahead of ‘Lazy Lady’ and ‘Trading Time’ by releasing their Marlin 10 and 20 minutes earlier respectively.
Angler Shaun Bodden from ‘Cool Change’ hooked the heaviest yellowfin tuna, weighing 77.2 lbs., which awarded his team US$10,000 from the guaranteed payout and an additional US$10,000 for entering and winning the ‘Tuna Doubler’ category.
The heaviest wahoo was caught by Baron Jacob from ‘Ecks-Change’ weighing 39.2 lbs. The heaviest dolphinfish was caught by Nathan Ebanks from ‘Reeladdiction’. Both teams won US$10,000 and each team kindly donated U$1,500 to the Alex Panton Foundation, the charity the tournament chose to support. Anglers were encouraged to donate a portion of their winnings to the Alex Panton Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve the mental health of the Cayman Islands’ children and young adults.
Forty-one boats entered the tournament with 230 registered anglers, including 41 international anglers and 28 females. Between them, they released twelve Blue Marlins, one White Marlin and one sailfish. A total of 14 yellowfin tuna, five wahoo and six dolphinfish were brought to the scale.
“The Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction of choice has so much to offer, and this tournament is no different as it highlights the high professional standard of sport fishing,” said Mr. Merren. “Billfish in particular hold a special place in Cayman Islands sportfishing and for me personally, it was great to bring the action so close to our shores,” he continued.
The tournament also supports responsible fishing and teamed up with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the School of Marine Sciences at University of Maine, and The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in a Tag and Release Program. Mr. Chen said, “Of all the islands I have travelled to, Cayman takes the most pride in its reefs and ocean by protecting it from pollution and overfishing.” The tag and release programme encourages participants to tag and release undersized dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, skipjack and bigeye tuna, and ocean whitetip sharks. ‘Conched Out’, captained by Colin Wilson earned the most release points and were awarded with an Ulysse Nardin CI Limited Edition Watch valued at US$10,000.
The awards dinner and closing ceremony took place on Friday evening at The Crescent in Camana Bay and included a live performance and an impressive display of fireworks. Sponsors, including: Dart Enterprises, Esso, Ulysse Nardin and Island Heritage handed out trophies and checks to winning teams. During the closing ceremony other sponsors were also thanked for their involvement in the tournament including: Chivas Regal; Michelob Ultra; Parkers; Automotive Art; Suzuki; Mikes Ice; Ogier; Shipping Registry and Pro Yacht.
Helping with the presentation of awards, Nicole Spenc, a sportfishing icon from Florida, also thanked sponsors and tournament organizers for welcoming her to the Cayman Islands. “The people, the island, everything is so welcoming and I am just blown away! I can’t wait to come back!” she said. Nicole writes an adventure blog and is popular across YouTube and Instagram.
Reflecting on the tournament, Mr. Merren expressed gratitude to participants and sponsors. “Thank you to those who participated and to the team at Hurley’s Media, Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire for a successful inaugural event. My hope is that next year we have even more participants, increase the prize pools, and perhaps even can break the Blue Marlin record,” he said.
Mr. Chen also said he’s excited for next year’s event. “Looking forward to next year with more boats and even bigger jackpots. I am proud to call Cayman my second home.”
NOW OPEN TO ALL ANGLERS FISHING FROM HATTERAS YACHTS
$1.115 MILLION IN PRIZE MONEY AT STAKE!
NEW BERN, N.C.– MAY 6, 2019 – Hatteras Yachts, a world-leading builder of convertible sportfishing and luxury motor yachtsfrom 45 to 105 feet, is pleased to announce that the 2ndAnnual Hatteras Cup Million Dollar Sportfish Challenge kicked off on May 1, 2019. The competition, which runs through December 31, 2019, is open exclusively to anglers fishing onboard a Hatteras yacht, regardless of model or year, who register in advance atwww.hatterasyachts.com/hatterascup.
The Hatteras Cup $1 Million Grand Prize for Heaviest Atlantic Blue Marlin will be awarded to the registered angler or team that catches an Atlantic Blue Marlin from a Hatteras yacht during an official billfish tournament that exceeds the current IGFA All-Tackle World Record. For the official Hatteras Cup Rules, please visit https://www.hatterasyachts.com/media/3362/2019-hatteras-cup-rules.pdf
If no registered Hatteras Cup participant wins the Million Dollar Grand Prize by Dec. 31, 2019, then $50,000 will be awarded for the Heaviest Atlantic Blue Marlin caught from a Hatteras during an official billfish tournament that was entered by a registered Hatteras Cup participant.
Prizes totaling $65,000 will be awarded to registered anglers in two other Divisions: Game Fish – Heaviest Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Snapper, Grouper – and Catch & Release (multi-species). Participants competing for prizes in these Divisions do not need to be fishing in an official tournament when they make their catch.
The Hatteras Cup awards will be presented at the Miami Yacht Show in Miami, Fla., in February 2020.
“Last year’s Inaugural Hatteras Cup was a great success with 245 anglers competing across the globe,” said Hatteras Yachts President and CEO Kelly Grindle. “We are looking forward to even more owners, anglers and teams to participate this year and compete for prize money, as well as bragging rights for themselves and their boats..”
The tournament is easy to enter—just visit hatterasyachts.com/hatterascup.
The 2019 Hatteras Cup Divisions and prizes are as follows:
De-Bait-Able takes the Win in a Field of 39 Boats
The 56th Annual Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Tournament was held January 23 to 26, 2019 in the Palm Beaches. This year an additional fishing day was added to the format giving teams the choice to fish any two. With two days of near ideal conditions, and a much-anticipated bite pushing into the area from the north, teams were rewarded with steady fishing. After the entire field of top competition teams taking a lay day on Thursday, all 39 boats hustled to release 180 sailfish on Friday and Saturday, The prize, a purse in excess of $352,000, the prestigious and beautiful Buccaneer Cup trophies for the top three boats and anglers, and bragging rights for placing in one of the oldest and most enduring billfish tournaments in the world. Add to that the knowledge that the tournament proceeds benefits the Recreational Fishing Alliance and The Billfish Foundation, there was a lot at stake.
Courtney Bowden, currently in her sixth year at the reigns of the Buc Cup, did a spectacular job running one of the best organized and classiest billfish tournaments on the coast. Along with her team of volunteers, including staff from TBF and RFA, she has made the Buc one of the most exciting and talked about tournaments of the season. The comradery displayed by the teams in attendance proved to everyone that the Buc is most definitely back!
The 56th Buccaneer Cup opened with the Captains meeting on Wednesday held outdoors at the recently completed Tiki Bar at the Sailfish Marina. The meeting was sponsored by the Viking Yacht Company and HMY Yacht Sales. Robert “Fly” Navarro emceed the meeting and went through the rules which included a few changes in 2019 to give the teams more flexibility and fishing options. The meeting included raffle items provided by the long list of tournament sponsors included such as items as Engel Coolers filled with goodies, Costa del Mar sunglasses, Maxel Reels, Tsunami rods and lures, Caza Offshore knife kits and gear donated by Atlantic Marine Electronics (AME), AFTCO, Hi-Liner Offshore Tackle, Grand Slam Sport Fishing, Outrigger Yacht Products, and Mustad.
The competition teams made the unanimous decision to lay on Day One, opting to fish Friday and Saturday which, based on the forecast, held the best conditions of the three available fishing days.
Day Two opened with grey skies, and light east winds and a strong bite with 14 sails being released within the first hour. Martha D called in the first release of the tournament just 17 minutes after lines in at 8 AM. The live baiters seemed to have the edge as Old No. 7, and De-Bait-Able took an early lead, but dead baiters Polarizer and Krazy Salts also made runs to claim the top spot for the day and the Calcutta dailies. By lines out, Old No. 7 racked up 10 releases on live bait for 2,000 points, followed closely by De-Bait-Able just 200 points off the leader. The top dead baiters filled out the leader board with Polarizer and Krazy Salts in the 3rd and 4th spots aided by a late bite that saw six releases in the final 30 minutes of fishing before lines out at 3:30.
Day Three saw a drop in the wind and accompanying slowdown in the action, but the live baiters continued to push their advantage. Based on radio chatter, fishing was best in a small area to the north of Jupiter Inlet. De-Bait-Able, with Capt. KJ Zeher at the helm, put on an astonishing clinic the final day amassing a total of 4,200 points by lines out bringing their two-day total up to 21 sailfish releases and leaving the competition in their wake.
Tournament staff utilized Reel Time Apps for accurate, up-to-the-minute scoring that was available to teams and tournament enthusiasts by simply downloading the free app. The program was linked to the official radio room computer scoring team and updated minute-by-minute allowing teams to follow the leader board throughout each fishing day. At tournament’s end the radio logs were matched against the boat’s catch logs and Reel Time Apps and then verified by video confirmation.
The winning boats were De-Bait-Able on top, Old No. 7 securing second place, with Sandman just 200 points behind in third. The competition was a nail biter between the top boats and was capped by a great run by Wrapped-Up breaking out of the pack in the final hour of the tournament trying valiantly to catch the leaders. In addition to several Calcutta categories, Old No. 7 also won the Charity Calcutta which includes an entry fee to the 2019 Buc Cup. They have been a regular in the tournament the past few years and no doubt the crew will be back next year trying to top their second-place finish.
The top angler trophies went to Bill Bryan on the Old No. 7 in first, beating Chris Weaks on the De-Bait-Able in second by time (both had 1,400 points), and Sandra MacMillan on the Sandman taking third as well as the Top Female Angler, which was also a tie broken by earliest catch.
The Buccaneer Cup Tournament cash award for the Most Points on Live Bait ($10,000) went to the De-Bait-Able team, which pocketed $110,800. Most Points on Dead Bait ($10,000) went to Polarizer, the team receiving a check for $66,610 in total purse for their win. The InTheBite Top Captain loving cup was awarded to Captain KJ Zeher, who skippered the De-Bait-Able to victory.
New for 2019 and created in memory of a long-time participant in the Buccaneer Cup, the Walter Johnson Award trophy for the largest meat fish went to the Bertram 61 for their 34-pound dolphin landed on Day 2. Pat Healey explained that the award was created as a posthumous honor that recognized his love of catching meat fish, and for his contributions to the development of the MTU engine, which has become the standard in sportfishing boats, during his tenure as the top executive at Johnson & Towers.
The awards banquet was held at the Sailfish Club of Florida and sponsored by MTU Marine Power, Florida Detroit Diesel Allison, and Johnson and Towers. The awards dinner was emceed by Robert “Fly” Navarro. Pat Healey, President of Viking Yachts and member of the RFA Board of Directors, presented Ellen Peel of the Billfish Foundation with a $5,000 check to aid the organization in its ongoing efforts to advance the science used for billfish management and assessment.
This event would not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors including MTU Diesel, Florida Detroit Diesel Allison, Johnson & Towers, Viking Yachts, HMY Yacht Sales, Yamaha Outboards, Jupiter Beach Spa & Resort, Contender Boats, American Custom Yachts, Akzo Nobel-Interlux Paint, Seakeeper, Garmin, Cummins Marine Power, American Venture Boats, Bahama Boat Works, Christi/Travelers Insurance, Atlantic Marine Electronics, American Fishing Wire/Hi-Seas, Release Marine, Viking Service Center, The Buccaneer Marina & Resort, Reel Time Apps, Sailfish Marina, and Outrigger Marine Products.
We look forward to seeing all our teams and more next year for the prestigious 57th Buccaneer Cup where we can make sportfishing history again.
ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys – Captain Marty Lewis of Marathon, Florida, led his team aboard Main Attraction to the overall win in the 29th annual Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament that ended Jan. 27.
Team anglers Mark Busch, Daniel Roberts, Clint Rodamer and Shelby Bentley, all residents of Marathon, together released 10 sails in the best time for top honors.
Team HellReyzer captured second place with 10 sails, with Captain Ryan Alexander of Cutler Bay, Florida, at the helm. Anglers included Rey Acosta, Mike Acosta, Travis Upchurch and Jorge Corzo, of Pinecrest, Florida.
Team Indigenous earned third place honors with nine sailfish releases. Islamorada’s Captain Travis Dickens led anglers Wade Stafford, Coleman Wherly, Mike Varney and Mark Toledo, from Merritt Island, Melbourne, Key Largo and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, respectively.
Varney also captured the tournament’s grand champion angler award for his five releases.
Cheeca Presidential Tournament director Liz Hill reported that 73 anglers aboard 19 boats released 82 sailfish during the two-day fishing contest.
The “Presidential” is the final leg of the three-tournament Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship, which includes the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament and the Islamorada Fishing Club Tournament.
Team Last Dance totaled 25 releases over the series’ three events to be named overall Gold Cup Series champion. According to organizers, the team was awarded the first-place prize of $24,000.