Skill and luck proved a winning combination for St. Thomas angler, Matthew Laban.
When the official weigh-in was complete at the 25th Anniversary Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament, held July 14 at Hull Bay Hideaway, it was Laban who reeled in the Largest Kingfish, a 34.26-pounder, aboard the Calypso 34, Emanuel. Laban was one of 211 anglers, including 39 junior anglers, on 55 boats who celebrated a successful tournament at the Coors Light, Snapple and Captain Morgan angler bars, provided compliments of Bellows International, which distributes these brands and has sponsored this tournament for over two decades.
“I caught the big one early in the morning. It was our second bite of the day,” explains Laban. “I knew it was a big one by the way it tore off line making the reel scream.”
There are two secrets to Laban’s success.
The first is bait. “We use big bait to catch big fish – horse ballyhoo,” Laban says, and adds, “Anyone serious about winning this tournament, like us, spends the entire day before rigging baits, checking reels, checking hooks and making sure everything is ready.”
The second is a lucky well-worn long sleeve dark blue shirt. “I’ve worn this shirt in all the tournaments I’ve fished in so far this year,” Laban says. True to result, he landed the fourth and fifth largest dolphin in the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club’s (VIGFC) Dolphin Derby in April, the first and third largest fish in the Frenchtown Father’s Day Tournament in June, and now the Largest Kingfish, in which Laban pocketed $2000 in cash, sponsored by NEMWIL, managed in the USVI by Red Hook Agencies, Inc. and providing homeowners and business insurance in the USVI for over 20 years.
The Second Largest Kingfish prize also went to Gina Bengoa, aboard Absolutely, who caught a 33.98-pounder and won $1000 in cash sponsored by Yanmar, distributed by Offshore Marine; Coors Light, distributed by Bellows International; and Frank’s Electric.
“We saw a big one, over 60 pounds, very early, but then lost it,” says Bengoa, who is fishing in the tournament for the first time, although she fishes regularly in tournaments hosted by the Golden Hook Fishing Club on her home island of St. Croix. “It was fun to catch such a big fish.”
Tamika Turbe, fishing aboard Emanuel, reeled in a 30.27-pounder to win the Third Largest Kingfish cash prize of $850, sponsored by Coors Light, distributed by Bellows International and Frank’s Electric.
With 14 fish (132.42-pounds) caught total, Capt. Joel Questel aboard Feel Good I won Best Boat and was awarded $1000 cash from Offshore Marine and Yanmar.
Meanwhile, the catch of 6 kingfish (67.09-pounds) earned Capt. Adam Turbe, aboard Ocean Jem, the Best Captain award and $1000 cash from Offshore Marine and Yanmar.
Laban’s catch of 6 fish weighing a total of 96.91-pounds, aboard Emanuel, earned him Best Male Angler, and a $725 cash prize from Offshore Marine and Yanmar, and Frank’s Electric.
It was Tamika Turbe, aboard Emanuel, who reeled in a total of 7 fish weighing a total of 70.86-pounds, who picked up the Best Female Angler award and a $725 cash prize – $500 of this sponsored by Red Hook Agencies.
The Best Junior Male prize of $325 cash from Offshore Marine and Yanmar went to Adrian Turbe, who caught 6 fish weighing a total of 67.09-pounds, aboard Ocean Jem.
Nicole Berry won the Best Junior Female prize, $325 cash from Offshore Marine and Yanmar and the Brin Family in memory of Kimberley Brin, with the catch of 4 fish weighing a total of 24.79-pounds, aboard Friendship.
Although the tournament is focused around kingfish, other species earned anglers $525 cash each courtesy of TOPA Insurance Services, Inc. and Coors Light, distributed by Bellows International. Paul De Lyrot caught the Largest Jack, a 12.13-pounder, from aboard Feel Good I. Junior angler, Joshua Laplace, reeled in the Largest Barracuda, a 31.46-pounder from aboard Ruckus, which set a new tournament record. The Largest Bonito was caught aboard Sea Wessel by Flame Gonzales and it weighed 3.32-pounds. Finally, Tim Spofford reeled in the Largest Mackerel, a 7.93-pounder, from aboard C-Hawk 222.
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.
Judges Herman Richardson and Kevin Laplace, Sr., officially weighed in the catches.
After weigh-in, the fun continued onshore at Hull Bay Hideaway. Oliek Ledee and Cool Session Brass entertained throughout the afternoon. Later, crowds gathered inside Hull Bay Hideaway for the Awards Ceremony at 8 p.m., where Lashing Dogs entertained.
In celebration of the tournament’s Silver Anniversary, a $500 prize was awarded to each of five randomly drawn registered boats that did not reel in any prize-willing fish.
Similarly, all 39 registered junior anglers were eligible for a special $1000 “Catch in the Hat” award. In this award, sponsored by Red Hook Agencies and Offshore Marine, 18 names of registered junior anglers are randomly drawn from a hat and awarded $50 cash while the 19th name selected receives $100 cash.
Over $16,000 was awarded in cash and prizes this year.
The 25th 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; and TOPA Insurance Services Inc.
First organized by the Northside Sportfishing Club in 1987, the tournament has become one of the highlights of French Heritage Week July 8th-14th festivities.
The tournament benefits the Joseph Sibilly School, St. Thomas Rescue and Nana Baby Children’s Home. In addition, seven students received a combined total of $6500 in scholarships for post high school education. The students are Adam Berry, Shanelle Brin, Jakesha DesCartes, Joshua Ledee, Alexander Querrard, Gabrielle Querrard and Bianca Sibilly. For additional information, Email [email protected] or call (340) 998-0854. Follow us on Facebook!