The combination of an experienced captain, novice angler and one blue marlin was what it took to win the 17th Annual Golden Hook Challenge, held out of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands on March 27 and 28.
"The weather had really been peculiar leading up to the tournament," explained Capt. Bob Mackay, aboard the winning boat, Leisure Lady, an Egg Harbor 41. "The marlin usually run north of us along the South Drop in the spring, but the fishing was slow. That's why I decided to head to a FAD (fish attracting device) about 12 miles to the northeast."
Eight boats fished in the two-day tournament. Only a handful saw a few small marlin come up in the spreaders, but the fish were disinterested in biting. "The first day we pulled the hook on one marlin," Mackay said.
The second day, the Leisure Lady headed back to the FAD and Mackay worked it for a good four hours before hooking up about half mile due west of the device.
"The marlin came up on the flat line about 50 feet in back of the boat," Mackay describes. "It grabbed the lure, shook its head and took off. I backed down like crazy, but it still nearly spooled me. There was only 20 feet of line left. It was really aggressive and I'd say it weighed a good 650 pounds or more."
In the fighting chair was Dan Kurty, a local physical education teacher who had never caught a blue marlin in his life.
"We caught the fish in about an hour," Mackay says. "Anyone else would have taken twice as long. Even though Dan had never caught a marlin, he was in good shape."
By lines out on the last day, the fleet had been skunked as far as catching blue marlin except for the one tag and release by Leisure Lady. Therefore, second and third places in the tournament were awarded to boats that had caught marlin during the Golden Hook Fishing Club's Dolphin Tournament in February. Flower Power finished second with a white marlin caught in the morning and Oh Suzanna third with a blue marlin caught in the afternoon.
The Club will host a handline tournament for kids in August. The Guy/Gal 'Reel Challenge' is set for September 25-26. For more information: www.fishstx.com