Slow and steady won the day for the team aboard the 23-foot Sailfish, Skylark, helmed by Capt. JD Hall and angler, David Farara. The dynamic duo took home nearly half of all prizes in the Sporting Division at the 45th Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament, fished out of English Harbour, June 11th-12th. However, neither Hall nor Farara imagined that it would turn out this way on the first day of fishing.
"We went to the northwest some 20 to 25 miles offshore and there was so much seaweed in the water," tells Hall. "We only had one wahoo strike the whole day. That evening back at the dock, some said to go in one direction and others another. I was really confused. So, the next day I decided to head back up where we had been the first day, but to go farther north."
The strategy paid-off winningly. Shortly after lines in, Farara reeled in the team's first wahoo. Less than an hour later, Farara released a second wahoo, followed by a double-header wahoo strike that had Hall also rushing to reel in one of the two.
"David caught his, but I lost my fish," says Hall. "I was driving the boat and trying to wind in the other wahoo at the same time. It was hectic. Really crazy. But, it was a lot of fun."
Shortly after 8am the team had added three wahoo to their score and cracked a bottle of rum for a quick sip to celebrate. But little did they realize the fishing had just begun. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, angling with wahoo-loving black and red lures rigged with ballyhoo, the duo in a combination of single, double and triple headers reeled in another three wahoo, two tuna and one of only two kingfish caught in the tournament. The fish kept coming until it was time to head into the weigh-station in Nelson's Dockyard.
"We were so happy," says Hall. "We heard other anglers call in on the radio throughout the day, but we had no idea where we stood. Everyone was shocked to learn that it was just the two of us to catch all those fish."
Skylark's booty included over US $2000 in cash plus luxury prizes for the titles: Champion Boat Overall (257.50lb of fish), Champion Boat under 25 feet, Second Largest Wahoo (44.75lb) for Hall, and Best Male Angler, Largest Wahoo (50.75lb) and Second Largest Kingfish (23.5lb) for Farara.
In the tournament's Marlin Division, there were a total of 18 tag and releases with three boats each releasing two blue marlin. Thus, the winner came down to who caught their two first and it was Capt. Francis Lignieres aboard the Sea Ghost out of Guadeloupe that earned the Champion Boat title and a nearly $4,000 cash prize.
A total of 43 boats took part in the two-day tournament.
New this year was the 1st Antigua and Barbuda Marlin Classic fished on June 13th. Four boats entered and it was Rum 'N' Coke, a Ronin 41, with Capt. Stuart Griffith and owners and anglers Mick and Ruth Liney, and angler Stephen Langlois aboard who won.
"We went to the southeast drop-off and caught a dolphin early," Capt. Griffith explains. "Ruth (Liney) caught our first marlin just after 9am, and also the second one just before 11am. Another boat, Xtreme, went to the northeast and caught one blue marlin, but it was after ours, so they would have had to catch two more to beat us. We did raise a third blue marlin, but couldn't hook it."
At the awards, event chairman, Capt. Phillip Shoul, handed Rum 'N' Coke a check for US $3200, representing 80 percent of the entry fees for the four boats who competed.
"We had a real good day," says Griffith. "We hope to get a few more boats out there next year for this tournament."
For full results, visit: www.antiguabarbudasportfishing.com/results.php
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.