The bite was hot and so was the competition at the International Billfish Shootout. This 16th annual event was held out of its new home in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, after taking place since its inception out of La Guaira, Venezuela. In the end, it was the Big OH, a Ricky Scarborough 63 owned by Gray Ingram from Jupiter, Florida, which won Top Boat with the release of 12 white and two blue marlin. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s Carlos Garcia, aboard his Cabo 40 Peje, scored Top Angler by releasing a total of nine white marlin.
Eighteen boats and over 40 anglers from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, United States and Aruba competed in this tournament which was also the kick-off of the 2010 Spanish Main Series.
“We’ve never fished in the Dominican Republic before,” said Capt. Ronnie Fields, at the helm of the Big OH. “That’s why we came here straight from Costa Rica, right from winning the Los Suenos Signature Billfish Series, and spent four or five days before the tournament out scouting the waters. I saw a few spots that looked productive. When it came to the tournament, we stuck to our plan, had great weather and caught a lot of fish.”
The Big OH jumped right into the lead on the first day with the release of five white marlin. Black Gold from Florida and local Dominican boat Caramba were right behind. Just over 100 points, equivalent to the release of one white marlin, separated all three boats by end of day.
On day two, Big OH released a blue marlin worth five times the point score of a white right after lines in, and stretched their lead even further with the release of four white marlin – including a double header – in the afternoon. Black Gold and Caramba tried to keep up and respectively released four and three white marlin.
The third and final day provided a thrilling showdown. Black Gold started off with a bang by releasing four white marlin to overtake Big OH on the scoreboard by mid-morning. Big OH responded by releasing a blue marlin to take back the lead. Throughout the afternoon, Black Gold and Big OH continued to battle back and forth until lines out when Big OH had scored three whites to Black Gold’s two.
“I think it would have kept going on and on, each of us releasing fish, but the time ran out and we won,” said Fields. “This is definitely the kind of fishing we like. Light tackle, small baits and leaders. We really enjoyed it.”
With Big OH and Black Gold, respectively, claiming Top and Second Top Boat, the race for third was on between Caramba and Peje. Peje started the final day in seventh place, then anglers Garcia and Luis Infazon scored a total of six white marlin to pick up the third place trophy.
“The last day was incredible,” said Peje’s Garcia. “Early in the morning a humongous blue marlin showed up on the left teaser. It came up on Luis’ bait after teasing and he missed it and then it disappeared. About ten minutes later, we had a doubleheader blue marlin. Those too we ultimately just missed and they would have put us in an excellent position.”
Just after this, Garcia released his first white marlin of the day and fourth of the tournament. Garcia added his second white release of the day minutes after, followed by four more throughout the afternoon to total nine white marlin releases.
Even though he relished the Top Angler prize, Garcia said, “What I enjoyed most was beating Caramba. Beating Caramba in their home waters seemed impossible five years ago, and we did it!”
The Big OH and Garcia also scored Top Boat and Top Angler, respectively, in this kick-off of the Spanish Main Series. The Series will continue at the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament in August and conclude at the BVIs’ Open in September.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.