Technique, plus being at the right place at the right time is what angler Stuart Meyer credits with his success in catching a 115lb yellow fin tuna in the 1st Jig Fest Fishing Tournament, held September 27 out of the Waterfront Bar and Grill in Hodges Bay, Antigua. Meyer’s catch, reeled in aboard his 21ft Guadeloupe-built boat, Goldfin, scored him the tournament’s two top prizes: largest tuna and most poundage.
“We started fishing around 5:30am.” Meyer tells. “Nothing happened, so we moved to another area nearby and fished some more but still didn’t catch anything. We were just about to leave when we decided to take one more pass. Bam, my line went off. It was 9am on the dot. At first I couldn’t tell how big the fish was because it stayed on the surface. Then, all of a sudden it dove deep, took line and started running. That’s when I knew it was big. It took me two hours to finally catch it.”
Meyer didn’t know he won until his fish was weighed. That’s because tournament co-organizer Eli Fuller, angling off his custom-built Performance 40, Xtreme, also brought a whopper tuna to the scales.
“We both knew our fish were over 100lb, but it looked really tight,” Meyer explains. “When the scales registered my fish at 115lb to his 114lb, that’s when we celebrated. It was a really good day.”
Two other tuna were caught weighing 85lb and 95lb, respectively.
Ten boats and nearly 60 anglers took part in this first-ever tournament for Antigua, which only permitted the fishing techniques of jigging and chunking.
“A bunch of us younger fishermen have been jigging for a few years and it’s been successful for certain types of fish like tuna,” says Fuller, who started the tournament along with John Watt. “Black fin and yellow fin can be at depths of 300 feet and you’ll get them with a jig (a type of lure – Ed), while those fishing on the surface won’t think the fish are there.”
Fishermen could also ‘chunk’. Chunking is like chumming, which involves throwing bait scraps and fish blood in the water to attract fish, but uses larger pieces of bait and doesn’t bloody the water.
The fishing grounds were limited to the areas around three FADs (fish attracting or aggregating devices) located approximately 24 miles offshore in deep water. No trolling, or dragging lures or bait behind a moving boat, was allowed. This stationary format added to the social aspect of the event because all of the boats could see who was catching, who was not and call out to one another.
“One angler liked this way of fishing so much that when he got back to the dock he said he wanted to sell all of his trolling equipment,” Fuller says.
The 1st Jig Fest Fishing Tournament ended with music, food and drinks ashore, plus a consensus among organizers to hold this type of fishing event again in the future.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.