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Fingers crossed that Bacardi tournament steers clear of foul weather

It is tournament time but the present forecast for the weekend is not particularly encouraging for the first of the season's big tournaments. A lot will depend on how quickly the region of bad weather moves through. If it comes earlier than anticipated, tomorrow should be fine; but, if it tarries, even by a few hours, then Sunday will not be the sort of day that sponsors want bouncing about the briny.

To be fair, large sponsored tournaments are about positive exposure for the company and a genuine interest to try to promote a fun event for the community. This is not served by inclement conditions and a possible reluctance on the part of participants. There is also the underlying thought that if a tournament is on, then some power has decided that it is safe and comfortable for all. This is fallacy. In the final analysis, it is the skipper's decision to stay ashore or to venture out. Hence the reason why the organisers of large tournaments aimed at amateurs err on the side of caution. Check before assuming that the event is on or off.

It is the strategy for such a tournament that is of interest. With the moon waxing toward full in a few days' time, conditions should be excellent for billfish and those species that are believed to be influenced by the moon. On the other hand, billfish are ineligible as catches in the Bacardi tournament, so seeking such is counterproductive.

The fish that will count are the wahoo, tuna and the somewhat nebulous “other” category. The first two are pretty straightforward. In the absence of line classes, it is simply the largest wahoo in each of the boat classes that wins. Ditto for the tuna, although one has to favour the yellowfin variety over the blackfin. A bluefin is an unlikely possibility, although such a catch would prove highly interesting, while the albacore, oceanic bonito (skipjack) and bigeye offer other unlikely prospects. With this background, the effort likely to succeed will be on chumming or live-baiting a large yellowfin, probably from the slick.

There are all sorts of possibilities for the “other” category. Amberjack and bonita (Almaco jack) have figured prominently in recent years, although the category has often been left blank. Both those species easily get large enough to satisfy the minimum-weight criteria. Dolphin are common enough but usually lack the size; a 20-pounder is a big dolphin for this part of the world. They can and do happen, but it probably would not pay to go looking for one. Horse-eye jacks occasionally get big enough as do barracuda, but, then again, you are looking for an exceptional one. Yellowtail snappers, most rainbow runners and other expected species simply are not going to be large enough. The key is to enter any game fish that makes the minimum weight but is also neither wahoo, tuna nor billfish.

Anyone into looking for a world record that is doable here, although it is rather daunting, may want to consider the latest light-tackle wahoo records. Both of these were set by males (the IGFA still separates men's from women's records) in the Pacific off Tonga and, while the fish were not particularly large — hence the ease with which they may be bettered here — the line tests were anything but large. The first of these records was a 36lb wahoo caught on 2lb test. The other was a more ambitious 52lb 14oz specimen caught on 6lb test.

As pointed out earlier, neither is especially large for a wahoo and many fish that could easily better those weights can be found lazing their way through a chum slick. It comes down to whether or not one has the audacity to pitch a bait on such gossamer line to a fish that will undoubtedly run off several hundred yards of line before even pausing and then having the intestinal fortitude to endure what will be a lengthy battle.

Boats that concentrate on billfish, such as the visiting foreign boats, are starting to put in the effort with mixed results. It is still early in the Bermuda season and things are just starting to settle down. Most of the local craft are still in wahoo-tuna mode and have not exploited the areas of possibility offshore. That will also soon change, as the deep water becomes the working province of the visiting fleet and the few determined locals. Whether or not the season will even start to emulate the results obtained by the single boat that has worked the obviously rich waters off Cape Verde is another matter entirely. The tally over there is 304 blue marlin in 49 days' fishing!

That number is nothing short of staggering. Compare the total catch in any recent year by all the boats that work Bermuda waters for 80 per cent or more of the available season and we will come up short. Any argument that the boat fishing over there has more water to fish is not supported; just how much water can any given boat cover in a given day? Based on that argument, more boats, such as the case here, should mean more fish caught.

What the numbers are saying is that there are a whole lot of hungry fish over there. Whether this is a temporary thing or some oceanographic phenomenon that directs fish to that part of the world will remain to be seen, but in anyone's measure that is one heck of a lot of Tight Lines!!!

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Published June 07, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 07, 2014 at 12:46 am)

Fingers crossed that Bacardi tournament steers clear of foul weather

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