St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. A blue marlin release within minutes of lines out earned the team aboard Indigo, a 61-foot Buddy Davis that is part of the local Ocean Surfari Charter fleet, the Top Boat in the 51st July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted July 9 to 11 by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club. The Indigo team released three blue and one white marlin in the three days of fishing.
“That last hour was a real nail-biter,” says Indigo’s Capt. Kevin Haddox.
Indigo started the day in the lead. A fish came up on the right short, then left long rigger but never bit. Then, a few hours later a call came over the radio that angler’s Gabriel Abud and Oscar Faris aboard Casca Dura, a Brazilian-based 80-foot Merritt, released a double header white marlin. This jumped Casca Dura into the lead by 300 points.
“We needed a blue marlin and the 500 points for its release to regain the lead. A white marlin wouldn’t do, because that would have tied us on points, but Casca Dura would have won because they scored their points first,” explains Haddox.
Then, with a little more than an hour left in the tournament, Indigo angler Steve Shockley, from Ft. Collins, Colorado, hooked up a 300- to 400-pound blue on the same Grander Custom Tackle-brand handmade lure he caught his first blue of the tournament three days prior. Twenty minutes later, Shockley released the fish, the second blue marlin of his fishing career, to earn Indigo its Top Boat honors.
“We just tried to pay attention, to figure out where the marlin where biting, and maximize every shot,” Haddox explains, about the secret to team Indigo’s success.
Casca Dura finished Second Top Boat. However, Abud earned Top Angler and his name engraved on the prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ perpetual trophy, by being the angler to first release two blues and a white marlin.
“My fish came up on the right teaser and Oscars came up on the left long one. It was one right after the other,” says Abud, who is angling in the JOBT for the first time. “We both released our fish at about the same time.”
Abud’s white marlin release, combined with his two blue marlin releases the day prior, tallied to his trophy-winning success.
The team fishing aboard Mixed Bag II, a Luhrs 40 Open Express chartered by Capt. Robert Richards out of the Westin, St. John, earned Third Best Boat with the cumulative release of two blue and one white marlin caught by James ‘Mac’ MacNeil. Ironically, had the Mixed Bag II team not had a blue marlin disqualified on day two, they would have won the tournament based on the time of their releases. Even so, it was a great event for Richards whose 7-year-old son, Robbie, was one of the registered anglers.
Finally, 17-year-old Tristan Lambert, of Hillsboro Beach Inlet, Florida, angling aboard his father’s 80-foot Merritt, Reel Tight, released two blue marlin on the last day of fishing to land the Top Junior Angler trophy.
“We didn’t do anything different today,” he says. Lambert caught and released both his blues on 50-pound test line on stand-up gear rather than sitting in a fighting chair, definitely a talent.
Winners received exquisite hand-carved marlin head trophies by famous marine wildlife artist, David A. Wirth.
The 8-boat tournament fleet released a total of 16 marlin – 12 blue and 4 white – in the three days of fishing.
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), rode aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
The tournament was sponsored by Glazer’s Premier Distributors, LLC and the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club.
Proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands. The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, a 501 C (3) organization, enables all young people, especially those most needy, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Donations are tax deductible.
For more information, visit: www.vigfc.com or call (340) 775-9144.