A tournament that’s a reel team effort
Another ideal fishing weekend ahead with near calm winds and no swell to speak of; fine small craft weather and a sign that the Bermuda summer is all but here. This augurs well for the Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament, which will be held tomorrow.
There are a couple of things that set the BFCAT, apart from all the other tournaments that the island sees each year. These are that it is a true light-tackle tournament, having had its origin back in the day when light tackle was seen by many as the only tackle suitable for Bermuda fishing.
Light tackle was defined as 30lb test or less. In the early days, this meant 12, 20 and 30lb test line, although changes in the international angling regulations over the years have led to the addition of the 8 and 16lb test categories. Most of the other local tournaments no longer demand these classes of tackle and allow fish to be entered on pretty much any recognised class of tackle. It was not like this back in the old days, that is for sure!
The other thing that is different is the format. In effect, it is a challenge between the recognised angling clubs with little emphasis on individual performance. The catches are all awarded points based on the weight of the fish relative to the line test used to catch it. Then, in each line category the points accrued by a team are totalled and then compared to the other clubs' scores in that line class. There is an award for the overall high point club total. As a result, the honours are often shared out among the clubs, with the overall award being the most coveted.
This tournament will actually be beneficial to anglers in general in that it will see most of the offshore areas get a working over by skippers and anglers who are likely to maximise whatever is available to them.
Given that the emphasis is on light tackle, chumming is likely to be the preferred tactic with tuna the intended target. Schools of tuna have been seen on the eastern side of Challenger Bank and this is likely to be a starting point for much of that effort.
Although points are based on the weight of fish that are landed, both blackfin and yellowfin tuna have minimum eligible weights at 15 and 18 pounds, respectively. Fish of those species that are released are awarded points based on those weights, so it is theoretically possible to amass a considerable number of points on light tackle without ever actually boating a fish.
Wahoo will be another desirable species in the tournament for a number of reasons; it is suited to the type of gear that will be in use, weigh enough to accrue significant points and are a valuable food species. It is a little early in the season, but wahoo will take to hanging around chum lines and, in addition to terrorising smaller species like mackerel and robins, occasionally take a bait. The problem is, of course, monofilament leaders meant for tuna are no match for a wahoo's teeth.
There are sufficient wahoo around to encourage boats to stick to trolling, as this is when the heavier classes of gear are used. For the most part, tournament participants will troll 20 and 30lb test. Such lines are normally capable of subduing all but the largest wahoo. Many of the fish around at present are school-sized in the 20 to 30lb bracket, although there are enough 40 to 60-pounders to make life more than just a bit interesting.
The tournament also allows for billfish, with release points available for both blue and white marlin as well as sailfish. Again, these are more unlikely targets for this particular fishing fleet but because the rules permit all game fish species except sharks, many anglers will be taking a bit of a shotgun or “whatever bites” approach.
Based on the catches of the last week or so, that is not an all bad idea. Most hauls have been mixed bags with wahoo the mainstay and increasing numbers of tuna with a smattering of dolphin. Many of the other species, although eligible, will fail to make the minimum weight requirement. This is half the line test; so, if the fish is, say, a barracuda on 30lb test line it would have to weigh at least 15 pounds. That is getting on for a largish 'cuda.
All the other anglers who are not involved in tournaments or the process of amassing points and simply want to catch fish can likewise be guided accordingly. Taking note of the tackle, tactics and techniques in use by those who either fish daily or concentrate on the competitive provides a good indication of the best ways to success as measured by Tight Lines!