A keen focus on catching and releasing billfish is what earned Gregory Ward and his Barbadian team aboard his Bertram 54, Grey Ghost, title of Champion Boat in the 27th Barbados International Fishing Tournament. Likewise, it was close attention paid especially to the baits that led Barbados’ Paul Marshall, fishing aboard the Custom 38, VooDoo, to the Champion Angler prize. These two were among the 182 anglers aboard 29 boats from Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua, the USA, Canada and England that competed in this March 30th to April 3rd tournament, hosted by the Barbados Game Fishing Association (BGFA).
“The first day we didn’t see any marlin, only dolphin,” says Ward, who finished second in the boat standings last year after tying the winner on points but losing on time. “The second day, we hooked up a blue marlin and lost it. Then around 11am we had a double header on and were able to release both of those blues. Each was small, around 150 to 200lb. The third day, it was only two dolphin (mahi-mahi). So we won the tournament with just two blue marlin this year.”
Ward says his Grey Ghost team fished some five miles offshore to the west-northwest of the island where the marlin bite is usually excellent. However, a fair amount of sargassum weed in the water made the fishery more productive to catching dolphin and wahoo than billfish.
“I’d say our focus on blue marlin, and using only plastic (lures) rather than baits, led to our success,” says Ward, who hopes to keep his winning streak going at other Caribbean tournaments such as the St. Martin Billfish Tournament in June.
Champion Angler Paul Marshall opted to troll baits instead, yet it was constantly watching for a strike that led to his triumph.
“We lost a sailfish bite the first day,” says Marshall, who has fished this tournament for over 15 years with many of the same friends and enjoys most the camaraderie of trading fishing stories with anglers from other islands and nations.
“The second day, I released a massive sailfish – some 80 to 90lb, and our team released a blue marlin, white marlin and couple of dolphin. The third day, I released a blue marlin in the morning and a white marlin in the afternoon…”
“That moved us up from twelfth to fourth in the boat standings. I was tied with another angler (Martinique’s Karim Lesace on the Two Thou) on points, but won by releasing my fish first.”
Legacy and Billfisher III, both Barbados-based charter fishing boats, finished second and third, respectively, in the Boat Standings. In other awards, St. Lucia’s Alison Deveaux on the Trinidad & Tobago-based boat, Pair A Dice, won Champion Female Angler and Barbados’ Tony White, on Billfisher III, Champion Junior Angler. This year’s event boasted a contingent of 23 participating junior anglers.
In total, 17 blue marlin, six white marlin and six sailfish were released while 84 wahoo and 236 dolphin were caught and consumed.
“The Port St. Charles Yacht Club provided the perfect location to relax after a hard day on the ocean, as well as a great venue for our layday pig roast and gala prize-giving,” says James Peirce, BGFA secretary. “Next year we’re looking forward to an even bigger and better tournament.”
For more information, visit: www.barbadosgamefishing.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.