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Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament

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Team Abracadabra - Winners of Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament. Photo: Kelon Pascall Photography
Team Abracadabra – Winners of Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament. Photo: Kelon Pascall Photography

Careful preparation, life-saving camaraderie plus a little luck led the Trinidadian team aboard the 54ft Bertram, Abracadabra, to win the Top Boat prize in the 45th Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament (BMSIBT), held January 27 to 31 out of the Grenada Yacht Club (GYC).

“All crews that go to Grenada are always very prepared and perfectly capable of taking home the grand prize,” explains Capt. Gordon Dalgliesh, who won this tournament on Abracadabra in 2012. “So, at the start of the tournament it was basically anybody’s game.”

Fifty-one boats carrying 261 anglers from the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe created an impressive parade as they cruised through St. George’s Carenage for the tournament’s Bimini start. Abracadabra then throttled up and headed 20 to 25 miles east to an area known locally as the ‘hump’ where the ocean floor drops to a depth of around 5,000ft. The team set out their spread and started to fish. It wasn’t until 11.00am that they successfully tagged and released a blue marlin and landed themselves on the scoreboard. An hour or two later Abracadabra tagged and released a second blue followed by a sailfish in the last ten minutes of fishing for the day. This catch of two blues and a sailfish put Abracadabra in the lead, albeit with Ramajay from Trinidad & Tobago and Reel Extreme from St. Lucia in close pursuit.

Day two and the Abracadabra team left the dock full of anxious excitement because of the closeness in the scores. They headed to the same productive grounds and released a sailfish by mid-morning. An hour later they tagged a white and were hoping for more when they heard a distress call from a fellow Trinidad & Tobago team aboard the 42ft Bertram, Gud Tyme. A big blue marlin broke the swim platform while Gud Tyme was backing down and the vessel started taking on water. Abracadabra, along with Vesper and Reel Extreme, immediately stopped fishing and escorted Gud Tyme in a dramatic run through Prickly Bay to Spice Island Marine, where tournament organizers had arranged a haul for repairs. Abracadabra ran back out to the fishing grounds where the team released a sailfish and white marlin which put them comfortably in the lead – or so they thought.

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Abracadabra immediately got to work on the third and final day of fishing by releasing a sailfish. However, Gud Tyme was not only back in the game after using the lay-day for repairs, but on a roll releasing a blue marlin, then a double-header sailfish and a white marlin. This catching streak ultimately tied Gud Tyme on points with Abracadabra.

“In the intervening time,” Dalgliesh tells, “we caught nothing. Not even any bites. It made us really nervous. Then at 12:30pm we finally hooked about a 450lb blue marlin. We fought it and fought it and lost it after two hours. Luckily, Gud Tyme had not caught anything in this time. The afternoon basically turned into a radio waiting game to find out who would hook the next fish and who would be the one to win. Thank goodness it was us!”

Gud Tyme, which won the BMSIBT in 2011, didn’t go home empty handed. In addition to the runner-up Top Boat prize, angler Michael De Freitas earned Top Angler with the release of six billfish. Three of these De Freitas caught on the last day and they gave him his personal first-ever Grand Slam (release of blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish all on the same day) and won the team the Grand Slam Trophy plus a dinghy and motor from sponsor, Budget Marine.

De Freitas describes his success as preparation meeting opportunity. He adds, “I enjoy the Grenada fishery because of the abundance of species and fish. This makes the tournament very exciting and competitive. The camaraderie on the jetty at GYC is great and the vibe is cool yet relaxed. This is actually my most anticipated tournament.”

Seventy-seven billfish were released during the tournament, a creditable tally considering the high winds and rough seas. For full results, visit: www.sibtgrenada.com

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

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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