St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The countdown is on! The start of the 48th July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) – the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands – is less than one month away. This highly anticipated tournament hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC) will take place July 12, 13 and 14.
"Entries are limited to the first 25 boats so we encourage all anglers to register online (www.vigfc.com) as soon as possible," says tournament director, Jeffrey Kreiner. "This is the July full moon and the fish will be waiting in large numbers."
Last year, Gray Ingram's Ricky Scarborough 63, Big OH, earned Top Boat and $10,000 with the release of six blue marlin. Luis Bacardi, aboard his Bertram 58, Rum Bum, scored Top Angler and the perpetual prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms 'Give Him Line' Trophy with the release of five blue marlin.
The most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish are what anglers will set their sights on catching and releasing. "This is an all-release tournament," says Kreiner. "No fish will be boated or brought to the dock for weigh-in."
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), will ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Final registration, where anglers will receive complimentary shirts and bags, and the Kick Off Party will take place at the VIGFC Clubhouse, in Red Hook, on July 11, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. This will be the same venue for the sit-down Awards Banquet on July 14th. Winners will receive exquisite hand-carved marlin head trophies by artist, David A. Wirth.
Lines go in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m., except on the final day of the three-day tournament when lines out will be at 4 p.m.
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. There will also be dock parties each night at the American Yacht Harbor marina.
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.
Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Virgin Islands. The Boys and 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.
The Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa is the host hotel for the July Open Billfish Tournament and offers a Special Fisherman's rate.
For more information and to register, visit: www.vigfc.com or call 340-775-9144.