Sodium Leads Day 1 at 54th July Open Billfish Tournament

Chad Damron, owner/angler aboard Sodium, leads after the first day of fishing. Credit: Dean Barnes

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. A trio of blue marlin releases put Sodium soundly in first place on the scoreboard after the first day of fishing in the 54th July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC). Chad Damron, owner and angler aboard the 75-foot Weaver homeported in Florida, released all three blue marlin to take the lead in the angler category as well.

“The first one we released was about 500-pounds and put up an hour and a half fight,” says Damron, of Crystal River, Florida. “That was mid-morning. The next two fish were about 150-pounds each and we released them mid-day and mid-afternoon. We saw two more in the late afternoon, but didn’t catch them. Overall, we feel really good about our two fish lead.”

Damron is only 12 fish away from earning this year’s new prize: $25,000 cash for catching and releasing 15 blue marlin during the three-day tournament.

Two other boats, Jim Lambert’s 86-foot Merritt, Reel Tight, and Jim Carr’s 72-Merritt, Never Say Never, released a marlin apiece to end the day second and third, respectively, in the boat standings.

“The marlin showed up on the teaser, did what it was supposed to do, and went for the pitch on the second pass,” explains Reel Tight’s Captain Joe Fiegel, about angler Tristan Lambert’s catch. Lambert, of Hillsboro Beach Inlet, Florida, also earned honors for catching the first fish of the tournament.

It was 15-year-old Zachary ‘Zac’ Murck, of Davie, Florida, who released the blue marlin aboard Never Say Never. Murck, who is fishing with his mother, Melissa Murck and grandfather, Jim Carr, earned Never Enough the top boat trophy and himself the top angler or prestigious ‘Give Him Line’ award in last year’s JOBT.

“We came down and started fishing on Saturday, so that helped since I haven’t fished for marlin since last year. Today, the marlin came up on the right side pitch. It dropped back, we teased it up again and then it took off. Even so, I was able to release it in about 10 minutes.”

Over half dozen boats homeported in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and U.S. mainland are competing in this longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands.

Lines go in the water on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m.. The JOBT concludes on Saturday.

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. The JOBT is a conservation-conscious all-release tournament. No fish will be boated or brought to the dock for weigh-in.

Past winners of the prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy read like a Who’s Who of blue marlin sport fishing. Angler Elliot Fishman’s winning 845-pound catch in 1968 set an all-tackle world record. Only two anglers have reeled in this honor two times – the late Howard Crouse in 1965 and 1988, and Puerto Rico’s late legendary angler Ralph Christiansen in 1973 and 1984.

Profits from the VIGFC tournaments, which received 501 C (3) status this year, will benefit the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Marine Vocation Program and local veterans. Tournament sponsorship and donations are tax deductible.

Sponsors include IGY’s American Yacht Harbor; Fish Tails Bar & Grill; Southern Glazer’s Wines & Spirits, distributor of Mount Gay Rum; and Yeti. and Yeti.

For more information and to register, visit: www.vigfc.com or call (340) 775-9144. Visit us on Facebook too!

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