In pursuit of blockbuster big game
Fair weather and hot, sunny conditions. The epitome for the blue water big game tournaments that highlight the month of July here in Bermuda.
The mass of aerials, outriggers, and towers down at the boat clubs and other marinas pay homage to the drawing power of the ultimate billfish; and what better place to pursue them?
The Blue Marlin World Cup got off to a cracking start with participation level up to just shy of 160 boats combing the world’s oceans for that singular blue marlin that would collect the massive pot of cash that was at stake.
It is of credit to this Island that 40 of the total number of boats had elected to try their luck here, giving evidence to the quality of the fish available.
With each boat fishing its respective time zone, when fishing commenced here the western Pacific had signed off without a valid entry and the eastern Atlantic was in the process of scouring its deep water for a candidate.
Throughout the tournament, lots of fish were caught or lost but with a minimum weight of 500 pounds, an exceptional fish would be needed.
Happily, most of the crews involved are professionals and have the ability to accurately estimate the weight of a fish when it comes alongside the boat.
With a few releases punctuating the morning’s progress it was captain Justin O’Keefe’s Joker that brought an eligible fish to the weigh station. Tipping the scale at 656 pounds, it moved into first place ahead of the lead contender a 624-pounder caught in Madeira.
Not a giant fish, by any means, but of a size that had held up to win the World Cup in previous years. With hotspots like Hawaii yet to start fishing it could be a long afternoon and evening.
As it turned out, the hope was quickly dashed when, with a little over an hour to go, captain Marc Noakes’ My Victoria boated a fish in Cape Verde that would eventually tip the scale at 950 pounds and move into first place.
The rest of the world and no few boats gave it their best shot but not even Hawaii could come up with anything better on the day and so when the sun set over the eastern Pacific, the one entry left to claim all the glory was the Cape Verde fish, further establishing that destination’s claim as a true place to look for trophy billfish.
Meanwhile, fished right alongside the World Cup was the Bermuda Blast which this year boasted 35 teams up from the 25 the previous year.
It will be noted that not all visiting boats enter all tournament and some, in fact, might just be here for the July 4 event.
Although the fish may not make the minimum weight for the international event, the Blast recognises these which score points and add to the competitive nature of the tournament. Day One got off to a mixed start with 18 blue marlin, four white marlin and three spearfish being released.
What is of some note here is the number of spearfish. A species, disputed by scientists as to how many species there actually are – spear length, scale shape and ocean preferred – are a bit of an oddity anywhere.
Found pretty much wherever the other billfish species are, spearfish are not large and appear to most people as something halfway between a white marlin and a sailfish.
For the most part, they seldom figure much in tournaments and there are very few places in the world where a very few anglers actually go to fish for them; so to have three caught and released on the first day is a bit of a surprise.
The excitement of the Bermuda Blast heightened when on two occasions on the second day, fish were boated and taken to the weigh station only for the crews to be mightily disappointed when their respective catches only managed 493 and 495 pounds, just shy of the 500 pound minimum weight.
The action heightened on the final day as releases started to mount up; at one point there were three boats tied for first place on 1500 points each.
Both the blue marlin and the white marlin provided almost continuous action as the fleet scoured the waters around this Island.
When the dust finally cleared, the winning boat was local boat captain Peter Rans’ Overproof with 1610 points from two blue marlin releases plus a nice 610 pound catch that was weighed in on the final day.
Nice fish, but not quite big enough for the Biggest Blue Marlin Jackpot which was won by Lance Converse on Lunatico with a late fish that tipped the scales at 682 pounds.
The High Point Angler was Jake Ricks on El Cazador (1500 points) and the High Point Lady Angler was Taylor Lambert with 1000 points.
A bit of a break now until Sunday when the one-day, all-release Bermuda marlin Release Challenge takes place.
The heavy-duty action resumes on Thursday when the premier event, the Bermuda Big Game Classic starts.
With a rather unsettled weather forecast over the next week or so, it is just possible that the billfish will get a much-needed break from the seemingly endless pursuit of Tight Lines!!!