The race to score the most blue marlin releases came down to the wire as a dozen teams fought to the finish for the grand prize in the Caicos Classic, the annual sports fishing tournament of champions held out of Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Ultimately, it was the 61-foot Viking, Luna, out of Miami and owned/skippered by Bruno Ramos, which took home this acclaimed award.
Even though fishing started off slow with only five blue marlin released on day one, Luna took an early lead and the first day’s top score with the release of two blue marlin. Salty Rinse, a 40-foot Cabo skippered by Jon Thoburn, released one blue as did Real Nauti and Rebaits, thus giving them a presence on the scoreboard early.
The pace picked up day two with 9 marlin releases. Tico Time, a Texas-based boat helmed by Mike Hester, released three blues to take the daily prize. Yet, Luna released its third blue, maintaining the team’s lead based on time.
The fish, perhaps encouraged by their lay day, remained scarce as day three proved to be a rather slow one, even as the competition heated up. Strike Zone, a 55-foot Viking captained by Trey Pecor, released a blue early to take the daily. Salty Rinse, after nearly a 4 hour fight on 50-pound line, released a blue estimated at 600 pounds to score their third release of the tournament and move into third place overall.
Going into day four, three boats all had scored three releases each and of these three, Luna, Tico Time and Salty Rinse were first, second and third, respectively, based on the time of their releases. Mid-afternoon, it was Salty Rinse that released its fourth fish to take the lead. But Luna wasn’t finished yet. The Miami team released their fourth ten-minutes later to land them second on release time. Finally, with a mere ten minutes before lines out, Luna hooked up and released its fifth blue marlin to win the 2006 Caicos Classic.
Rob Shawger, owner of Salty Rinse, was High Point Angler with four releases. Tom Largura, owner of Cool Runnings, took Second High Point Angler with Nelson Fonseca landing Third High Point Angler on the Luna.
According to tournament organizer Art Pickering, plans are already underway for next year’s tournament. "We’ll be at the Miami International Boat Show in the Big Game Room again next February," said Pickering. "Come by and see us and learn why marlin fishing in the Turks and Caicos Islands is among the best in the world."
Turtle Cove Marina in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, hosts the Caicos Classic Release Tournament. The full service marina and international port of entry features a protected harbor with 65 deep-water slips and all the amenities, including restaurants, bars, hotels, auto rentals and shops immediately on the premises.