First-timers luck and natural angling ability proved a winning combination for St. Thomas’ Melinda Bryan. When the official weigh-in was complete at the 26th Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament, held July 13 at Hull Bay Hideaway, it was Bryan who reeled in the Largest Kingfish, a 28.70-pounder, aboard the 17-foot Boston Whaler, Timeless. Bryan was one of 196 anglers, including 30 junior anglers, on 57 boats who celebrated a successful tournament at the Captain Morgan, Coors Light and Snapple angler bars, provided compliments of Bellows International, which distributes these brands and has sponsored this tournament for over two decades.
“It was her first time to fish in this tournament,” says Christopher Sibilly, who captained the Timeless, of Bryan. “We headed to Savannah Island and hooked up the fish between 9:30 and 10 a.m. As soon as I saw the rod bend I told her to quick jump on it. Her hands were shaking and the fish kept taking line and running it out, but after a 10 to 15 minute fight she caught it. We thought it was a big one but didn’t know if it was the big one.”
Bryan’s whopper kingfish earned her $2000 in cash, sponsored by NEMWIL, managed in the USVI by Red Hook Agencies, Inc. Plus, Bryan received a new prize – a Mariner’s Safety Kit and Cooler valued at $500 sponsored by Budget Marine.
The Second Largest Kingfish prize went to Tamika Turbe, aboard Emanuel, who caught a 24.50-pounder and won $1250 in cash.
Mark Bistarkey, fishing aboard Fish Whistle, reeled in a 22.10-pounder to win the Third Largest Kingfish cash prize of $1100.
With 19 eligible species fish caught total, Capt. Alvin Turbe aboard Emanuel won Best Boat and was awarded $1250 cash.
Meanwhile, the catch of 5 kingfish earned Capt. Christopher Berry, aboard Hell Yes, the Best Captain award of $1250 cash.
Scott Bryan’s catch of 11 fish weighing a total of 109.35-pounds, aboard Gone Ketchin, earned him Best Male Angler, and a $725 cash prize.
It was Tamika Turbe, aboard Emanuel, who reeled in a total of 12 fish collectively weighing 113.35-pounds, who picked up the Best Female Angler award for the second year in a row and a $725 cash prize.
The Best Junior Male prize of $325 cash went to Connor Querrard, who caught 6 fish weighing a total of 60.30-pounds, aboard Double Header.
Flame Gonzalez won the Best Junior Female prize, $325 cash, with the catch of 10 fish weighing 37.85-pounds, aboard Team Sea Weasel.
Although the tournament is focused around kingfish, other species earned anglers $525 cash each. John Clarke caught the Largest Jack, a 15.15-pounder, from aboard Emanuel. Gone Ketchin angler, Scott Bryan, reeled in the Largest Barracuda, at 28.45-pounds. The Largest Bonito prize was a tie between John Berry on Hell Yes and Zack Vineyeard aboard Cat’s Ass, both with 3.75-pound catches, who split the cash prize. Finally, Jimmy Jones reeled in the Largest Mackerel, a 7.25-pounder, from aboard Bambooshay.
Winners also received overnight stays at local hotels, dinners for two, and a variety of luxury gifts and excursions all generously donated by the Virgin Islands’ business community.
Anglers who caught fish, but didn’t earn a prize still had a chance to win in the ‘Lucky Unlucky Catch’ drawing. Their names were placed into a hat and three received $500 apiece. Similarly, all 30 registered junior anglers were eligible for a special $1000 ‘Catch in the Hat’ award. In this award, 18 names of registered junior anglers were randomly drawn from a hat and awarded $50 cash while the 19th name selected received $100 cash.
Some $20,000 was awarded in cash and prizes this year.
In reality everybody who participates is a winner because of the sense of family and friendship the Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament inspires. Several off-island family members planned their summer vacations around the tournament dates. Plus, in a heartfelt sense of friendship, one group formed a team named after a friend and avid angler who passed away last fall.
“Wayne LaPlace was a childhood friend and we always fished this tournament together,” says Mark Stiehler, whose Team Wayne chartered Doubleheader Sport Fishing’s 35’ SeaVee to fish the tournament and in 2012 earned Best Boat. “We didn’t do as well as we wanted, but we were fishing for a purpose and I think Wayne was with us in spirit.”
Judges Herman Richardson and Kevin Laplace, Sr., officially weighed in the catches.
After weigh-in, the fun continued onshore at Hull Bay Hideaway. Cool Session Brass entertained throughout the afternoon. Later, crowds gathered inside Hull Bay Hideaway for the Awards Ceremony at 8 p.m., where the Get Together Band entertained.
The 26th Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament is sponsored by Coors Light, Captain Morgan and Snapple, distributed by Bellows International; Offshore Marine, the Yamaha and Yanmar distributor in the Virgin Islands; NEMWIL, managed in the USVI by Red Hook Agencies, Inc., providing homeowners and business insurance in the USVI for over 20 years; TOPA Insurance Services Inc., and Budget Marine, the Caribbean’s leading chandlery.
First organized by the Northside Sportfishing Club in 1987, the tournament has become one of the highlights of St. Thomas’ French Heritage Week festivities. In 2012, online travel advisor Hotwire.com named the Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament one of the ‘Top 10 Bastille Day Celebrations’ in the world.
The event benefits the Joseph Sibilly School, St. Thomas Rescue and My Brother’s Workshop, as well as provides college scholarships. Over the past quarter-century, the nonprofit Northside Sportfishing Club by way of its annual Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament has donated over $146,000 to community organizations.
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