The crew from the St. Martin fishing boat Follow Me emerged collectively $27,000 richer following a remunerative weekend at the 16th St. Martin Billfish Tournament held June 5-8 where they cleaned up in the assorted cash prize categories.
Follow me won $3,300 for having the largest number of five marlin releases in the tournament (one blue, and five white), a further $6,600 for first place on points, $500 from sponsor Madco, and the Marlin winner-takes-all jackpot of $17,000.
Stars, another boat from St. Martin, finished in second place with three releases (two white and one blue) winning a total cash prize of $5,450. Third place went to Ti Donki La from St. Barths with two blue marlin releases and $3,800 in prize money.
Cash prizes for first, second, and third place were percentages of the registration fees i.e. 20%, 15% and 10%, respectively. Organisers indicated over 25 releases were recorded from the 33 participating boats.
There were separate prizes of $500 sponsored by Budget Marine for the biggest Wahoo, Tuna, and Mahi-Mahi. Georges Greaux’s Nicomar won the prize for the their biggest Wahoo at 50lb, Stars caught the biggest Mahi-Mahi of 39lb, and the biggest Tuna of 63lb went to Yellow Whip.
This year, despite the timing of the event, the big marlin proved to be elusive, not helped by rough sea conditions for the boats on the first two days, and the public was denied the usual spectacle of marlin hanging from the gallows. One under-minimum weight blue that was brought ashore on the last day by the Guadeloupe boat Fit Gas weighed only 364lb (the minimum weight was raised to 400lb) costing the crew a deduction of 100 points.
Renowned British angler and captain Roddy Hays was the celebrity guest and a sponsor for the tournament. His own brand of lures called Legend Lures were awarded as part of the prizes set-up.
Florida-based Hays used to live in Anguilla and it was the first time he had been back to the tournament since 2004. He is famously credited with catching and releasing the most Blue Marlin over 1,000lb in Madeira between 1989 and 1996.
Despite no big catches landed, the success of the tournament was underlined by the number of releases and an unprecedented number of boats from around the region that participated.
“From the organisation point of view for my first year I’m very happy with the turnout and everybody was happy,” said organiser Laurent Petit. “A lot of boats have already confirmed they will be back next year.”
Robert Luckock is a British journalist and freelance writer residing in St. Maarten. He is currently The Daily Herald’s correspondent for French St. Martin.