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52nd July Open Billfish Tournament Kicks Off

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St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The 52nd July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) – the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC) – kicks-off Tuesday July 28th with a fleet of nearly a dozen boats home-ported out of the Virgin Islands and several U.S. mainland states.

Anglers in this three-day tournament, which concludes Thursday July 30, will set their sights on catching and releasing the most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish.

Last year, the team aboard Indigo, a 61’ Buddy Davis that is part of the local Ocean Surfari Charter fleet, earned Top Boat with the release of three blue and one white marlin. Brazil’s Gabriel Abud, fishing off his family’s 80-foot Merritt, Casca Dura, released two blue and a white marlin to earn Top Angler and the prestigious ‘Give Him Line’ award. The names of past winners engraved on this prestigious perpetual prize reads 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.

Pescador, Top Boat in the 2013 JOBT, is back. After spending last summer in Bermuda, St. John, USVI-based owner/angler of the 60’ Rybovich, Stephen Deckoff Sr., his son, Stephen Jr. and team are ready for the winner’s circle again.

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“Our game plan is to head north, that’s where the bite has been” says Pescador’s Capt. Jeremy Fowler. “We expect this to be a really good tournament.”

Fresh from back-to-back wins in the Bahamas Billfish Championship, Jr. Davis, the Port Canaveral, Florida-based owner/angler of the 61’ Garlington, Wave Paver, and his crew are looking forward to the competition.

“There’s good fishing here in the Virgin Islands,” says Davis. “We’re looking forward to enjoying another great marlin season, the people and the hospitality.”

Jim Lambert, Jr, and his teenage son, Tristan, from Hillsboro Inlet, Florida, have been testing the waters for billfish in Virgin Islands’ waters since May aboard the family’s 80-foot Merritt, Reel Tight.

“We caught three blue marlin the last full moon,” says Tristan, who was last year’s Top Junior Angler. “This month we’ve already released six and we’re not even to the full moon yet.”

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.

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.

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 an all-release tournament.

This year’s JOBT honors Sue Boland and the many years of service and support she has provided to the VIGFC, the tournament and the tournament’s chief beneficiary, The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.

Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands. The Boys & 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.

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

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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