If the Casa de Campo International Blue Marlin Classic, fished March 17 to 20 out of Marina Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic, was a horse race, no one would have bet on what turned out to be the top boat and angler winners. It definitely looked like a longshot for the Venezuelan-based team aboard the Viking 58, Amazing Grace, to consider a podium finish when they started the last day of fishing 9th out of 16 in the boat standings. Ditto for Garrett Penley, who fished aboard the 48ft G&S, Chaser, out of Destin, Florida, and who set out seventh on the tournament’s final day among the anglers. Yet there’s that certain mix of luck and skill in sport fishing, especially billfishing, that means that anything can and does happen.
“Our three days of fishing were executed under the strict and effective work of our captain, Goyo Mejias, who located the best zones for us to hunt for blue marlin,” says Amazing Grace angler William Bustillos. “In reality, we had problems with our electronics and Mejias spent 72 hours working to repair and calibrate the equipment. This, plus the excellent vibes from our team members really helped us. But what really made the difference was when we released three individual blue marlin. The cherry on top was a tripleheader of releases that put us at six fish total that last day and seven total for the tournament.”
Bustillos credits the skill of Amazing Grace’s anglers – in concert with the spot-on execution of Capt. Mejias maneuvers during each fight – for the win.
Frank Rodriguez’ Fa La Me, which placed Top Boat in this tournament in 2014, finished second, while Chaser ended third in the boat standings.
Penley, on Chaser, also enjoyed a gangbuster of a last day to reach his six fish total and earn the tournament’s Top Angler prize.
“Garrett is a phenomenal angler and my first mate,” says Capt. Tim Richardson, on Chaser. “He is the fastest you will see around a cockpit and is on point all day.”
Richardson says the Chaser team fished 26 to 30 nautical miles southwest of Casa de Campo on two sets of FADs. Penley caught fish throughout the day, but releases tended to be concentrated between 11am and 4pm.
“Each fish behaved differently, but we caught one blue marlin in less than three minutes and others we fought for over 30 minutes,” Richardson explains.
Sixteen boats from the Caribbean and U.S. released a total of 63 blue marlin in this blue marlin only, all release tournament.
“The weather was great the first and last day, but really rough the second day,” explains tournament director and owner of Miami, Florida-based International Billfish Tours, Rick Alvarez. “I think we would have seen even more fish if we didn’t have a front come through right before the tournament started. Some boats in the week prior were releasing nine to ten blue marlin a day.”
The Casa de Campo Blue Marlin Classic is the kick-off event for the 2017 Dominican Billfish Triple Header Series, now in its second year. The series will continue with the International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout in June and finish at the Cap Cana Classic in September.
For more information, visit: www.intlbillfishtourns.com