St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Register now to fish the legend! The 49th Annual July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) – the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands and the tournament that put the Virgin Islands on the world’s blue marlin fishing map with Elliot Fishman’s all-tackle world record 845-pound blue marlin in 1968 – will be held June 30 to July 2. A fleet of boats from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and U.S. mainland are expected to compete in this Virgin Islands Gamefishing Club (VIGFC)-hosted tournament.
“Entries are limited to the first 25 boats so we encourage all anglers to register online (www.vigfc.com) as soon as possible,” says tournament director, Jeffrey Kreiner. “This is the July full moon and the fish should be biting in large numbers. The tournament is also close to the July Fourth weekend. We invite all families to come and enjoy the long weekend in St. Thomas.”
Last year, Harry Sargeant’s 65-foot American Custom Yacht, Black Gold, earned Top Boat and $10,000 with the release of five blue marlin. Jon Jennings, aboard the 58-foot Revenge, scored Top Angler and the perpetual prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy with the release of four blue marlin, while Tristan Lambert, fishing from his family’s 80-foot Merritt, Reel Tight, earned Best Junior Angler by releasing two blue marlin.
Catching and releasing the most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish are what anglers will set their sights on to win cash and prizes.
“This is an all-release tournament,” says Kreiner. “No fish will be boated or brought to the dock for weigh-in.”
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), will ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Final registration, where anglers will receive complimentary shirts, bags and special 12-month Fishermen’s Calendar and the Kick Off Party will take place at the VIGFC Clubhouse, in Red Hook, on June 29, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. This will be the same venue for the Awards Banquet on July 2nd. Winners will receive exquisite hand-carved marlin head trophies by artist, David A. Wirth.
Lines go in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m., except on the final day of the three-day tournament when lines out will be at 4 p.m. Hooter’s ladies will deliver complimentary Cruzan rum punch to participating tournament boats nightly.
The public is invited to greet the fleet as the boats come back to the dock around sunset. The number of flags flying on the outriggers indicates how many billfish the boat’s anglers caught and released for the day.
Past winners of the prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy read like a Who’s Who of blue marlin sport fishing. Angler Elliot Fishman’s winning 845-pound catch in 1968 set an all-tackle world record. Only two anglers have reeled in this honor two times – the late Howard Crouse in 1965 and 1988, and Puerto Rico’s late legendary angler Ralph Christiansen in 1973 and 1984.
Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands. The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, a 501 C (3) organization, enables all young people, especially those most needy, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Donations are tax deductible.
Paradise Properties (1-800-524-2038) is the host hotel for the JOBT and offers a Special Fisherman’s rate.
For more information and to register, visit: www.vigfc.com or call 340-775-9144.