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Jon Jennings Top Angler and Black Gold Top Boat at July Open Billfish Tournament

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A last minute entry paid off for Harry Sargeant’s Black Gold, which won Top Boat at the 48th Annual July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), fished out of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in July. The Florida-based team aboard the 65ft American Custom Yacht released three blue marlin the first day, none the second, and two the third for a total of five blue marlin, to score more points (2500), more than any other team in the nine-boat fleet.

"I roamed around on the North Drop more than on the first two days and it paid off," explains Black Gold captain, Keith Bokenhagen.

Angler Matthew Melchiorre released both of Black Gold’s fish on the tournament’s final day.

"The first came up on the long rigger and the second on a pitch bait," says Melchiorre.

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The competition really heated up by mid-day on the final day of fishing. By then, the St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands-based charter boat, Mixed Bag II, a Luhrs 40 Express, had already scored two blue marlin releases and Black Gold only one. This tied Mixed Bag II and Black Gold with 2000 points apiece, although Black Gold led on time having released their tournament total of four fish first. From then on, the Black Gold team was definitely on tenter hooks wondering if Mixed Bag II anglers would release another marlin to reel in the top boat prize. As it turned out, it was Black Gold’s Melchiorre who then released his second blue for the day just after 2pm to win Black Gold its Top Boat prize.

This is the first time Black Gold has won the JOBT. In 2008, the team earned the Third Top Boat prize.

Mixed Bag II, with Capt. Rob Richards at the helm, finished Second Top Boat (2000 points), while the 58ft Revenge, with Capt. Mike Lemon driving, finished Third Best Boat (1800 points).

Revenge angler, Jon Jennings, reeled in all four of his boat’s fish – three blue marlin and one white – for 1800 points. This earned Jenning’s the tournament’s only angler prize, the prestigious Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ perpetual trophy. Jennings won this prize in 2004 and his father, Sam Jennings, in 2005 and 2006.

“We have a great crew, a great captain and we have fished together a long time,” says Jennings, “so the teamwork is there.”

Fourteen-year-old Florida-based angler, Tristan Lambert, fishing aboard his family’s 80ft Merritt, Reel Tight, won the Top Junior Angler award with two blue marlin releases (1000 points).

Beautifully carved wood marlin heads, handcrafted by marine wildlife artist, David Wirth, were awarded to the winning teams.

In total, the nine-boat fleet released 20 marlin – 19 blues and 1 white – over the three-day tournament. No fish were boated.

IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), rode aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.

Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.

For more information, visit: www.vigfc.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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