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Antigua’s Best of the West Tournament

Photo: Kimberley Hall
Photo: Kimberley Hall

Team success is about everyone pulling their weight. This is one reason the five fishermen aboard the 32ft Carrera, Scallywag, won Champion Boat in the 26ft and over category with 227.6lb of fish in the Best of the West tournament, fished November 4 out of Antigua’s Jolly Harbour Marina. There were notable individual achievements as well. For example, one of Scallywag’s anglers earned awards for a whopper wahoo.

“It was still dark when we headed to an area known locally as The North West, which is a large offshore drop-off to the west of the island,” explains Michael Hall, Scallywag’s captain. “It has many great spots, but the usually most productive area was a bit murky due to northerly swells, so we went south.”

Ten minutes later, there came the screaming sound of a trolling reel as a big wahoo peeled off a few hundred yards of line within seconds. Scallywag’s 12-year-old junior angler, Cameron D’Ornellas, definitely had a beauty at the end of his 50-test line. D’Ornellas fought his first large wahoo and, all by himself, brought the 70.6-pounder to the boat. It was the largest fish of the day and largest wahoo as well.

“I fought the fish for over 20 minutes”, says D’Ornellas, whose father Brian was also a Scallywag team member. “I had to use both my hands in the end to reel it in. It was so hard, and I was so tired, that I went to sleep for two hours afterwards.”

For his effort, D’Ornellas earned Largest Wahoo, Largest Fish by a Youth 13 years and under, and Largest Fish by a Male.

Soon after, the Scallywag team had a blue marlin; estimated at 400 to 500lb, hooked on the same lure D’Ornellas had caught his wahoo. However, because the Best of the West isn’t a billfish tournament, the fishermen weren’t disappointed when the line broke about 20ft from the leader. Yet the big fish did give the crew an amazing acrobatic aerial display before it swam away.

Winning angler Cameron D’Ornellas (12) landed a 70.6-pounder. Photo: Kimberley Hall
Winning angler Cameron D’Ornellas (12) landed a 70.6-pounder. Photo: Kimberley Hall

“Later in the day, we got into some more activity and boated five small mahi-mahi. Then, all hell broke loose when four lines simultaneously took off with wahoo. After a half-hour of tangled mess, we miraculously boated all four with the second biggest wahoo of the day, a 60-pounder,” describes Hall.”

Twenty boats, many of whom have competed against each other for many years, fished this one-day tournament. Twelve teams weighed in fish, including 29 wahoo collectively weighing 1028.4lb. Afterwards, there was good food to enjoy and even better camaraderie.

In other awards, Giovanie Gomez on Simply Nutz caught the Largest Kingfish at 21.3lb. Michelle Thomas won Largest Fish by a Female with a 37.1-pounder caught off Sea Rider. Grand Slam earned Champion Boat 25ft and under with a total of 94.1lb of fish.

Now under new management, this exciting tournament saw a number of changes, which improved the competition among anglers. There was also a new and improved venue. The Jolly Harbour Marina and management team lent the use of one of the marina’s newly built docks and adjacent open lawn, which provided enough space to accommodate the boats, vendors and spectators alike.

“The tournament has always been hosted on Antigua’s west coast and we intend to keep it that way as long as the venue is available to us,” says tournament director Robert Hall. “Wahoo caught in the western waters are usually very large this time of year, so this tournament was created to see just who really is the Best in the West. Some boats do travel east of the island to try their luck, however only boats that have fished in the west have won this tournament.”

 

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

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