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Scratching tournament a smart move

The right line; a fisherman tries his luck at John Smith’s Bay (File photograph by Tamell Simons)

The prospects are not good. The fish are indeed out there, but the weather has not really been conducive to offshore activity and, for most weekenders, this one is going to be spent getting ready for the great start to summer on Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, and a great call in advance, the BFCAT tournament did not go off last Sunday. The lightning, thunder, rain, winds and a good running swell would not have made any friends among the anglers who were slated to take part.

Although the published alternate date was May 29, the organisers, in consultation with the other IGFA-affiliated clubs, have moved this to June 5.

There is actually some sound rationale behind this as the BFCAT tournament is based on the use of light tackle and only allows certain line classes. On May 29 the annual Bacardi tournament is the scheduled event and this much larger tournament makes no stipulations on the use of line class.

As is fairly obvious, it doesn’t make sense to pit those anglers who are restricted to using light tackle against individuals who can use whatever tackle they see fit.

Although many purists decry the shift from light tackle, there is no doubt that the Bacardi tournament is by far more representative of modern angling in Bermuda.

Years ago, going back to the 1950s and 1960s, the use of anything heavier than 30lb test was considered sacrilege. The feeling was that the fish being promoted locally could all be caught on the lighter classes of line.

Chumming for school-sized yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna and other small game fit into this category, and even a large wahoo could be subdued without too much difficulty on such line.

The bottom line may have been that the fish predominately sought after were of a size that was suited to such gear. Naturally there were hookups that got away, but lots of these were put down to bad luck, foul-hooking and other excuses that evaded the possibility that there were larger specimens that needed more stopping.

As evidence, consider Leo Barboza’s 115lbs wahoo that was caught on 20lb test line in 1961. This still stands as the IGFA line class world record. Larger wahoo have been caught, here and elsewhere, but on heavier tackle.

The thought was that as long as you had enough line, regardless of breaking strength, a fish could take all it wanted and you would still be able to eventually wind it in.

It was also recognised that the maximum hooking, or strike drag, was about one-third the test of the line. There are all sorts of formulae for working these things out, but that is a pretty accurate statement. Heavier line would be thicker line and so a given reel size would carry less line.

The solution came in the form of the production of wide reels in the various line classes. This gave rise to the idea that by carrying just as much line, in terms of length, of a heavier and therefore greater diameter line than was usually carried by, a 50lb class reel, a stronger line could be used without comprising linear capacity.

The up side of this was by going to say, a 60lb test line, the striking drag went to 20lbs instead of about 16lbs, a 25 per cent increase. This was widely embraced by commercial fishermen who were beginning to be less concerned with the sporting aspects of the industry.

The odd occasions that saw schools of really large yellowfin put in an appearance, and these were all but unstoppable on most of the tackle in regular use, was another contributing factor to heavier gear being carried on most professional boats.

Even though the angling clubs persevered with the concept of light tackle, rising costs were yet another factor that slowly but very surely saw even the amateurs moving into the heavier classes of tackle.

An expansion of more classes of light line by the IGFA was seen as encouragement for light tackle, but the die seemed cast as only the most ardent of purists insisted on fishing with the new classes and longstanding classes of lighter lines.

Blue marlin of reasonable size, 400lbs-plus, were caught here on 30lb test and 50lb rigs, but it was not until several skippers became convinced that these were by no means the biggest fish that they encountered.

That led them, in their quest for recognition as a serious marlin hotspot, to ultimately gear up to the 130lb test class, the heaviest sanctioned by the IGFA.

The Bacardi tournament in its infancy was a light tackle tournament, but after a hiatus it was reborn as a tournament open to all tackle classes, as it remains today.

With many of the participants using this event as their annual fishing outing, and the inclusion of other less than dedicated fishermen, the thought of using light line is seen as a handicap. So, therein lies the rationale for the BFCAT being moved.

With the ever-popular Bacardi tournament now imminent, would-be anglers are reminded to get their entry forms in ahead of the Wednesday, May 25 deadline.

After all, a shot at some great prizes is a great reason to go in search of some Tight Lines!