Determination – to win and have fun – proved the successful strategy for the top team in the 44th USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT), fished out of IGY’s American Yacht Harbor marina, August 15 to 19. Rod Windley, of Pensacola, Florida, fishing aboard his 68ft Hatteras, Gulf Rascal, and fellow angler Andy Venable of Knoxville, Tennessee, each released a blue marlin apiece on the tournament’s fourth and final day to win Top Boat with six blue marlin total.
“We knew we had to catch two and do it as early in the day as possible to have a shot at winning,” says Gulf Rascal’s Windley.
Windley was the first aboard Gulf Rascal to hook up for the day, at around 11am, and he released his 350 plus-pound blue marlin after a half hour fight. Three hours later, Venable pitched and hooked up a monster 500-plus pound blue. Gulf Rascal’s Capt. Billy Borer backed down fast and within seven minutes the hot fish was caught, released and swimming away thanks to the rapid action of mates Glen Helton and Rob Barringer.
The ABMT, in addition to being a team tournament, is renowned for its prestigious Ed Pang-designed trophy for Top Angler. It was Scott McFarland, of Cocoa Beach, Florida, fishing aboard the 75ft Weaver, Sodium, owned by Chad Damron, of Crystal River, Florida, who released a blue marlin – his fourth for the tournament – with less than half hour left until lines out to capture this prize. McFarland’s name will be inscribed on the perpetual Ed Pang crafted ‘Straight Up’ trophy that depicts a marlin jumping out of the water. The late Winthrop Rockefeller, Jr., commissioned Pang to make the ABMT’s angler trophies back in the 1970s.
Started by Chuck Senf in 1972, the four-day ABMT has evolved into one of the most competitive saltwater sports fishing events in the world and is nicknamed the ‘Super Bowl of Sports Fishing’. The ABMT is fished under International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) rules with Observers aboard each boat, and is overseen by a professional ‘Board of Captains’ and well-qualified judges.
The ABMT benefits the locally-registered not-for-profit Marine Vocational Program (MVP).
Report by Carol Bareuther