St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Talent and luck earned the team aboard Pescador the Top Boat win in the 50th Anniversary July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC), July 19 to 21. Stephen Deckoff, Sr. the St. John, USVI-based owner/angler of the 60-foot Rybovich, caught his fifth blue marlin and his son, Stephen Jr., his third today to give Pescador a total of eight blue marlin releases for the tournament.
“We stayed consistent by releasing four the first day, two the second and two the third,” explains Deckoff, Sr., who has fished extensively before moving to the Virgin Islands two years ago and has angled with his current crew for about a year.
This is the first Virgin Islands tournament Deckoff, Sr. has entered.
“We live here, it’s a big tournament, and we’ve decided to get more serious about our fishing, therefore we entered,” he says.
Deckoff, Sr. was the first to release five blue marlin and thus win the top angler prize, the prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy. Only two anglers have reeled in this honor twice – the late Howard Crouse in 1965 and 1988, and Puerto Rico’s late legendary angler Ralph Christiansen in 1973 and 1984. Interestingly, Pescador was formerly owned by Christiansen, who died in a plane crash in 2009 while returning from a weekend of billfishing in the Dominican Republic. Christiansen likely left a little luck behind in his vessel.
“It put some pressure on us knowing the boat and Christiansten’s history,” says Deckoff, Sr. “I hope we made him proud today.”
Team Free Spool, fishing aboard the 70-foot Tribute, Nemesis, released five blue marlin and one white marlin to finish in second place. It was a great ending compared to an uncertain beginning.
“We went from broken down the day before the tournament when the boat (Free Spool) got hit by lightning out on the Drop, to getting ourselves fully prepared, to seeing fish to placing,” explained Capt. Kevin Haddox (Of Ocean Surfari Fishing Charters). “The white marlin we released the second day gave us an advantage and ultimately it made the difference between second and third place.”
In third place, Florida’s Jeff Cohen, owner/angler aboard the 61-foot Spencer, Da Bait, and his team released a total of five blue marlin.
“We had an uneventful day today. Ten minutes of action, one release, and that was it, compared to yesterday when we had four bites between 3:30 and 5 p.m.,” says Cohen. What did make the day extra special for Cohen was sharing it with his 6-year-old son, Bruce, who rode along in a tournament for the first time.
The 11-boat tournament fleet released a total of 41 marlin – 39 blue and 2 white – in the three days of fishing.
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), rode aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Proceeds from the July Open Billfish Tournament 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.