Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
For some it was a 30-plus year tradition. For others, it was beginner’s luck. Yet everyone who competed in the 46th Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament, held May 26th and 27th, and the second Antigua and Barbuda Marlin Classic on May 28th, enjoyed a fantastic time at sea and back on land in Nelson’s Dockyard.
Some 137 anglers aboard 40 boats from Antigua, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, St. Maarten and St. Barths fished the main two-day tournament, which featured both Sporting and Marlin Divisions.
Scally Wag, Captain Michael Hall’s 32ft Carrera center console, championed the Sporting Division by catching a total of 282.5lb. Scally Wag’s anglers also scored high in individual prizes.
“We set off at 6:00am and were fishing by 7:15 under great weather on the first day,” Hall tells. “Our first fish came at nine o’clock, which was a 55lb wahoo caught by ten-year-old Sebastian Gobinet, who gave it his best effort and never flinched. The next one, a 35lb wahoo, came 20 minutes later and was caught by my daughter Kimberly. We had a lull until midday when we landed a kingfish and two more wahoo. We picked up a few small blackfin tuna also and then around 3:00pm we had two more wahoo with a 44-pounder in the mix, which was caught by my son Robert.”
Gobinet’s fish earned him prizes for the Second Largest Kingfish, Largest Wahoo and Largest Fish caught by a junior angler, while Robert Hall picked up the prize for the Second Largest Wahoo, and Kimberly Hall claimed the trophy for the Largest Fish Caught by a Female.
“Our success was a combination of factors but mainly team work, being in the right place and constantly monitoring the rods to make sure the drop back was done with the right timing,” says Hall. “Also properly rigged lures are key as well as taking note of the bite direction for consistency.”
In the Marlin Division, the winner was Blue Rapid, which tagged and released two blue marlin.
Captain John Fuller of the champion 32ft Hatteras, tells, “I’ve fished this tournament for over 30 years, so I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go. The marlin grounds are to the east and northeast of Antigua where the Continental Shelf drops off. The first day we hooked four marlin and tagged and released two. These two marlin were caught by 15-year-old Justin Barreto. He’s the son of a famous fisherman here in Antigua, but he had never been marlin fishing, never seen a marlin and never caught a marlin. He just went bananas. The first fish was around 450lb and he fought it for over an hour. He wanted to give up about two-thirds of the way through, but we cheered him on. The second was around 180lb.”
The second day, Blue Rapid had two marlin strikes. One they lost and the second they released, but the photo of the release was unacceptable to the tournament committee so they gained no points. Only one other boat caught two marlin, but one of theirs was a white marlin which counted for fewer points than a blue.
“Our success was due to three points,” says Fuller. “First, we knew the best areas to go. Secondly, we were using Black Bart lures and third, our trolling speed – ten knots.”
Three boats competed in the single-day Antigua and Barbuda Marlin Classic, with Frank Hart’s 40ft Custom, Overdraft, declared the winner with one blue marlin release.
Overdraft angler, Brian Nunes, explains, “We planned to go 15 miles southeast of Antigua, but we were stopped by a marlin. Another boat, Rum N Coke, which won last year, was right beside us. They hooked up ten minutes earlier, but they lost their fish and we were lucky enough to release ours. That was 7:30am. No one else ended up catching anything else the rest of the day to beat us, but that was the longest day of my life.”
Everyone felt like a winner back on shore as they tucked into cold beer, pulled pork sandwiches, conch fritters and more at the nightly parties.
Scally Wag’s Hall sums up perfectly what makes this tournament so much fun: “It is the keen competition and friendly camaraderie.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.