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All Eyes on the Bahamas Billfish Championship

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After completing its 40th season of competitive billfishing in 2013, the Bahamas Billfish Championship (BBC) continues to evolve. The 2014 series will consist of four tournaments equally spread across the months of May and June, with each event focusing on the renowned fishing grounds of the Abacos.

New BBC president Jennifer Dudas after her blue marlin release. Credit: BBC
New BBC president Jennifer Dudas after her blue marlin release. Credit: BBC

New tourney president and director Jennifer Dudas has been with the BBC for 21 years already, and should bring a steady hand to their long-term tradition of quality. “First I want to thank Al Behrendt for producing the Bahamas Billfish Championship for the past 20 years,” said Dudas. “The first-hand knowledge I learned from him, plus my own passion for offshore fishing, will give me the tools to take the BBC to the next level.”

“We will begin a slight format change in 2014 with a reduction in fishing days,” said Dudas. “We will discontinue the practice of a lay day, where competitors choose which day to stay in port during the BBC. Now everyone will be fishing for three days in a row, which will streamline our tournament.” This move also gives businessmen who typically own these sportfishers another day in the office to work.

One such angler is Greg Smith of Myrtle Beach, S.C. who will travel to fish in the Bahamas Billfish Championship opener at Guana Cay May 7. “We fished this same tournament in 2013 and had a blast,” said Smith, who owns a 56-foot Viking named Blue Sky. “We ended up taking second place and doing pretty well in the calcutta, but the intangibles are what made us decide to come back in 2014.”

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“It’s just about a two day run from South Carolina to the Abacos and Capt. Steve Krammer will get the Blue Sky settled in port before my anglers arrive,” said Smith. “The BBC demands a registration fee that is substantial, but once we arrive everything from the Captain’s bag to the meals and entertainment are first class…not to mention the beautiful setting and the awesome marlin fishing not far from port.”

In contrast, back in South Carolina it’s a three-hour commute offshore to the Gulf Stream. Smith is involved as a board member for the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, and loves to fish for blue marlin. Imagine the ports of Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour filled with boats like Blue Sky all competing for the overall trophy and championship ring, and you begin to realize why the BBC is 40 years old and going strong.

The tournament schedule for each event begins with a Captain’s meeting Wednesday night, followed by three days fishing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. An awards banquet Saturday night will recognize the top anglers and serve to round out the tournament scene in which anglers, their families and tourists will take part. The 2014 dates begin in Guana Cay May 7-10, and upon completion of the four events the overall winners will be recognized at the final Saturday awards banquet June 21.

Crews are awarded catch and release points for billfish releases with a blue marlin release awarded the most points. The BBC requires a 115-inch minimum before a blue marlin is eligible to weigh in the tournament. So except for a large blue marlin, the emphasis is on conservation via catch and release. To learn more about the BBC or to purchase a copy of their 40-year anniversary DVD, visit the Internet at www.BahamasBillfish.com.

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Jeff Dennis is an outdoor writer and photographer who grew up on a creek in Charleston loving the saltwater, and he contributes regularly to All At Sea Southeast. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

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