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Timing that release perfectly proves to be a big deal

Big Deal in a previous Bermuda tournament (Photograph courtesy of Facebook)

It is hot, it is July and the billfishing scene takes over Bermuda’s sportfishing. It is not that the regular fishing ceases to exist; it merely means that the high-profile pursuit of the ultimate Atlantic game fish takes on a life of its own, attracting aficionados from far and wide and usurping the limelight from all others.

This is a huge week for Bermuda fishing in that the first leg of the Bermuda Triple Crown tournament coincides with the Blue Marlin World Cup. This event is the Bermuda Billfish Blast, which this year has attracted an entry field of 44 boats for the three-day competition. On the other hand, the World Cup has 49 boats fishing here, including most of the Blast entrants along with some local boats that are just fishing the single-day event.

Worldwide, the World Cup had 169 participants, each ponying up a sufficient amount of money to turn anyone’s head, with a single winner taking virtually the entire pot. Against the 49 boats that elected to fish here, other popular spots included Madeira, the Azores, the Gulf of Mexico and Kona, Hawaii, with most of these locations having provided winners in previous years.

The Blue Marlin World Cup’s fishing got off to a start on Thursday when Bermuda was still in the dark, with boats fishing in Polynesia on the other side of the globe. This big-money summer ritual has become a mainstay on the tournament circuit and has the cream of the sportfishing fleet strategically stationed all over the world in the hope of catching that one big fish on the appointed day.

The first eligible catch was a 557-pound blue marlin caught off Madeira. Shortly thereafter, a fish that exceeded the measurements of the first fish was boated off the Cape Verde Islands, an eastern Atlantic marlin hotspot that has produced large fish consistently for a few years now. Once a Portuguese colony and bearing a confusing name that makes one think of a continental cape in the geographical sense, Cape Verde is actually a group of islands often lumped in with the Azores, Madeira and other islands in that region.

While that boat headed for the scales, visiting boat De-bait-able here in Bermuda boated a fish after more than two hours of battle. As the Eastern Atlantic’s day wore on, news travelled fast thanks to mobile phones and the internet, and it was established that the Cape Verde fish weighed 845lb. Early estimates put De-bait-able’s fish in the 600lb range — perhaps not likely to be a World Cup winner but a fine entry in the Billfish Blast. But rather than head straight to the weigh station, the team chose to remain at sea and went on the hunt for more.

Even as the fishing day drew to a close here in Bermuda, locations to the west still had hours to fish, with Hawaii only just commencing their fishing day.

Despite plenty of nerves and false reports, when the dust settled somewhere over the Pacific, the team of Captain Stuart Simpson’s Dog’s Bollocks in Cape Verde finally were able to properly celebrate their 2024 Blue Marlin World Cup win.

The Blast saw an early leader in the form of Captain Chris Weeks’s Pescaria quickly releasing two blue marlin to jump ahead of Safari, which had released the day’s first blue marlin, putting it ahead of Chasing A’s white marlin release — the first fish of the tournament. While this looked good, it was not long before Captain Cameron Miller’s Pastime was hot on his heels with a second blue marlin release also earning them 1,000 points. As the afternoon progressed, Captain Pete Zook’s Sea Striker also released a second blue to join them on 1,000 points.

Right behind these, all based on time, were Safari, Mama Who and Christina, all of which had two releases. Just when things looked settled, Fender Bender released a third blue marlin to surge into first place with 1,500 points.

With most boats heading for home, Captain Brian Rabbitt’s Big Deal hooked a fish that would keep angler Eddie Russo occupied for close on four hours before being boated.

Back at the tournament headquarters, De-bait-able arrived to weigh in its fish, which pulled the scales down to 636lb. This was well received but as word of the Big Deal’s ordeal spread, the crowd remained awaiting their arrival later that evening. It was then that the tournament was made aware that not only was there a new leader in the largest fish category but that Big Deal’s 673-pounder also catapulted the team into second place with a total of 1173 points, taking into account their earlier blue marlin release.

There is one thing that can be relied on in tournaments of this nature, and that is the lead can change suddenly and often dramatically. Blue marlin releases score 500 points, while white marlin and other billfish releases score 100 points. Landed blue marlin must weigh more than 500 pounds and score one point per pound. Time also is a significant factor, with the first catch or release taking precedence over the number of points scored and often being the deciding factor when scores are equal. (Read: plenty of excitement to come in the Blast.)

Still with billfish but on a lower key, it should be noted that the Bermuda Marlin Release Challenge slated for Sunday has been moved to July 28 with the captains’ meeting taking place on July 26. This event proves popular with locals who are not in a position to compete with the big boys, as it prohibits the use of sonar, has no rules and is strictly release. In other words, a fun marlin tournament with no pressure that can produce plenty of action and Tight Lines!!!

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Published July 06, 2024 at 7:53 am (Updated July 06, 2024 at 7:43 am)

Timing that release perfectly proves to be a big deal

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