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Plenty of action out there for all concerned

Always on top: Choate’s early catch gave Reel Addiction a lead they never lost

High summer, so let the games begin! Or at least the mayhem that marlin madness brings to the month of July.

In Bermuda almost all the serious local fleet and any number of visiting overseas boats compete in a number of tournaments that has the island stacking up against some of the world’s other premier billfish hotspots.

First of these was the Blue Marlin World Cup, fished worldwide on July 4. The bar was set early on Monday morning when after nothing of note came from the South Pacific, the island of Madeira struck for the second year in a row, boating a big blue that weighed in at 983lbs, thus pretty clearly stating that it would take a grander to displace it from the leaderboard.

On hearing this news, the Bermuda-based fleet redoubled their efforts but although there was not to be a huge winner for Bermuda this year, Stephanie Choate, fishing aboard the Reel Addiction skippered by Captain Craigin Curtis, fought and boated a nice blue that clocked in at 625lbs.

This gave them a lead in the Bermuda Billfish Blast and also was the largest fish in the World Cup’s optional jackpot, the Big Blue Challenge. Not that Ms Choate is any stranger to big fish, having won the World Cup in Kona, two years ago.

In any case, despite heroic efforts from boats in the Bahamas and the Hawaiian Islands, this year’s World Cup honours stayed firmly with Blue Makaira’s Madeiran near grander, giving that island its second win in two years.

Although the World Cup was done and dusted, the Bermuda Blast continued apace with the fleet probing all the deep water around the island for marlin. Throughout the ensuing days reports of hook-ups, losses and releases were tallied, with just about every participant in with a chance.

As the Blast moved into its final hours on Wednesday competition was tight at the top, with Reel Addiction’s 2,225 points being hotly pursued by Uno Mas and Reel Lax.

Opting to work the East End that day, Craigin and Choate really put a hurt on the fish as they released a white and two blues in fairly short order, expanding their lead to more than 1,525 points.

At lines out it was Reel Addiction in first with Captain James Barnes’s Reel Lax in second and Captain Tommy Lynskey’s Uno Mas in third. With this tournament over, boats will be looking at the next event to better their overall position in the Bermuda Triple Crown.

Overall, the Blast had attracted 157 anglers on 30 teams. The final fish tally was 48 billfish, 39 blue marlin and eight white marlin and a spearfish with only one of those fish not released.

Next Tuesday the Bermuda Big Game Classic gets under way, bringing the excitement of another three-day challenge to find the biggest, or failing that, the most marlin.

This is the tournament that really put Bermuda billfishing on the map and it is now in its sixteenth year. With the day’s weigh-in festivities each afternoon at Barr’s Bay it also gives the general public a chance to see what was caught, and to get a bit of the feel that a big international tournament brings.

Although it is the marlin that hog the limelight there is plenty of other sport to be had. The Bermuda Invitational Fly Fishing Tournament was also concluded this past week and some of the results there were remarkable, especially considering the gear in use.

Although the best catches were those of yellowfin tuna on gossamer tippets, it was the blackfin tuna that provided the bulk of the action, making for some really memorable angling for the participants. Fly fishing is a whole speciality in itself and certainly is not for the faint-hearted, so when a hardy pugilist like a blackfin latches on be prepared for a battle.

Amazingly, some of the fly anglers actually managed to get wahoo to take their well-presented feathery offerings and then they were able to subdue these speedy gamesters. Wahoo are not a species usually thought of as fly candidates since their sudden, high-speed, slashing attacks are not what the vision of a perfectly presented fly conjures up. But, they obviously can be by those who really know what they are doing.

There are, however, still reasonably good numbers of wahoo available offshore as most trollers are reporting catching at least a few. The average size has dropped back to the summertime norm, but that does not make them any less desirable.

Yellowfin tuna, to about 80lbs or so, are to be found on the Banks and they will doubtless put in appearances elsewhere. Chumming is the preferred way to catch them, but every once in a while they will surprise and take a troll. Live baits or dead baits fished from a kite also get results.

There is plenty of small game around and a rather surprisingly abundant number of barracuda. Often numerous later in the year, boats are reporting catching six or more in a day — not what one would usually expect.

They will take most anything especially a hooked mackerel or robin. Although their slime is a bit smelly, they do compensate by making for a firm white fillet.

At least that offers some return for some rather unexpected Tight Lines!