The release of nine billfish earned Club Nautico de Santo Domingo the top team prize at the 76th International Light Tackle Tournament Association (ILTTA) Competition, hosted November 16-21, out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Champion team members Wally Heinsen and Carolina Mederos each released four billfish, while another catch by third team member, Raúl Rizek, secured victory for the Dominican trio. This proved a fantastic feat since the challenge in this light tackle tournament was using 20lb test line to catch and release billfish easily 20 times or more this weight without having the line break in the process.
“The competition was hard every day,” says Heinsen. “It ended with two teams, us and the Puerto Rico Light Tackle Anglers #2, each with nine releases. Another team, Keep Fishing Venezuela, had eight releases, so it was very close. Ultimately, we won based on time, or in other words being the first team to release nine fish.”
Heinsen was the most experienced of his team mates. Mederos grew up fishing with her father and this was her first time in a light tackle tournament. Rizek was also a new fisherman and this was only his third tournament. On the first day, Heinsen fished aboard the Arabita and released two billfish.
“I thought two fish were nothing important, but once at the dock I found that Carolina had also released two marlin. A little later, we received the day’s tournament report and saw we were in second place overall.”
The second day, Heinsen reeled in and released another marlin. His teammates didn’t release any fish and the Dominican team dropped to third place in the standings. Meanwhile, Heinsen did enjoy great excitement aboard the Sweet Bite when fellow angler, David Martin from South Africa, caught a 500-plus pound fish after an incredible fight on light tackle.
Day three saw Heinsen fishing aboard the Live Line, where he returned without a bite. Back at the dock, however, he was delighted to hear that team members Mederos released two billfish and Rizek one to put the team back up into second place.
The fourth and final day of tournament started off with some slow fishing. Then, around 11am, Heinsen, aboard M&M, saw a sailfish heading to his bait and handily caught and released it. It was the only fish seen on M&M for the day. Little did Heinsen know, until he arrived back at the docks later, that this last release is what gave the Club Nautico de Santo Domingo team it’s tournament win.
“I think my team’s success was being able to start in second place, catching four fish on the first day, and then catching fish every other day of the tournament,” says Heinsen. “What I enjoyed most is the challenge of catching big fish on light line and also because in the Dominican Republic we fish for white marlin many times on light line and it is really fantastic fishing.”
The prestigious Big Belt Trophy, which is constructed of silver and leather, will move to Club Nautico de Santo Domingo. Here it will remain until a new team winner is named in the 2017 ILTTA, which will take place May 1st to 7th, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
In individual angler awards, Puerto Rico’s Luis Cordova finished first with five releases, Venezuela’s Rafael Martinez second with four, and Puerto Rico’s Andres Portela third with four.
Fifty-one anglers from six countries aboard 17 boats collectively released a total of 88 billfish, including blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish.
“The ILTTA’s tournaments feature a global group of friends who love billfishing with light gear. We were pleased to welcome competitors this year from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Guatemala, South Africa, the United States and Puerto Rico,” says Luis Infanzon.
For more information, visit iltta.org