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Black Gold Takes First Day Lead at 49th July Open Billfish Tournament

Angler Mike McCarthy in the fighting chair with owner/angler, Harry Sargeant, steering the chair aboard Black Gold. Credit: © Scott Kerrigan/AquaPaparazzi.com

Florida angler Harry Sargeant and his team aboard the 65-foot American Custom Yacht, Black Gold, proved they have what it takes to defend their Top Boat title. On this first day of fishing in the 49th annual July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club, Sargeant and fellow angler, Mike McCarthy, each released a blue marlin apiece to put Black Gold on the leaderboard with two fish for the day, more than any other boat in the 10-vessel fleet.

“Sarg (Harry Sargeant) released the first blue marlin just before 11 a.m.,” explains McCarthy. “It ate a pitch bait on a circle hook, stayed down, then jumped. Sarg released it in about 15 minutes. It was small, around 150 pounds.”

Sargeant next jumped off a small white marlin, thus not gaining any points. After several hours of quiet, McCarthy hooked up a blue marlin on a lure with only an hour left in the fishing day.

“It just gray-hounded away from the boat,” McCarthy described. “It was around 250 pounds and I released it in 10 minutes. We had a great day, but there are still two days left in the tournament.”

Gulf Rascal, a 68-foot Hatteras owned by Florida-based angler, Rod Windley, finished as second top boat for the day by catching the first blue marlin of the tournament.

“Lines went in at 8:30 a.m. and Phillip (Napier) hooked up about 8:33 a.m.,” says Doug Caudell, one of three anglers aboard Gulf Rascal. “Funny thing is we didn’t see anything else for the day.”

This first catch puts Napier in the Top Angler lead.

Alina rounds out the top three boats, while Reel Tight’s 15-year-old Tristan Lambert leads as Best Junior Angler with one blue marlin release. The heartbreak loss of Lambert’s second blue marlin of the day came after an energetic 90-minute fight.

“I was standing up the entire time,” says Lambert, about the fish that got away while he angled aboard his family’s 80-foot Merritt. “It came up on the left cockpit teaser and hit the pitch hard and then went down. Every time I got him up, he sounded back down, until the line broke. We looked at the line afterwards and it had melted. I don’t know if it was the friction against the marlin’s bill or friction against another line, but it was enough for the line to break. That was disappointing. Still, it was a good day. We saw four blue marlin and I released one.”

The tournament fleet released nine blue marlin total.

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.

Fishing continues tomorrow with lines in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m. 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.

Junior anglers are invited to come out and fish the July Open Kid’s Tournament on Sunday. Participation is open to all kids 12 years of age and under. The first 100 kids will receive FREE entry, which includes T-shirt, drinks, pizza, back pack, rod and reel. Registration takes place at 8:30 a.m. at the VIGFC tables at AYH. Fish from any dock, rock or stump in AYH – just stay on shore! The Official Weigh-In, by officials of DPNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division, will take place at 11:30 a.m. Prizes, gift certificates, cash and more will be awarded in two age groups: Up to 6 years and 7- to 12-years. Bring a hand line or rod and reel to fish.

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.

For more information, visit: www.vigfc.com or call 340-775-9144.

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