“It’s not a sail boat, it’s a fishing boat” is what I tell people when they peer inside our 34ft Gemini sailing catamaran Turks & Chaos. Fishing rods fill the space where light once poured through deadlights, while lures sit precariously in every available hanging space. We have all the gear, the bait, the motivation but are lacking in power. Averaging 5.5kts most days just doesn’t attract the big game fish that our rods are set up for.
Which is why, when the chance came to fish aboard the legendary boat Gwendolyn during the Turks and Caicos annual Wine Cellar Golf & Fishing Tournament, my partner Andy and I jumped at the chance.
Held every year in March, the competition focuses on the three big game fish you’re likely to catch in these waters this time of year: mahi mahi, wahoo and tuna. For two days, 18 boats fought tooth and nail against each other to come back with the heaviest fish. With over $20,000 worth of prize money up for grabs, the competitors were ruthless.
This year the event was held at Blue Haven Marina, which saw the boats off with a shotgun start at 07:30 and attracted hundreds of spectators upon the anglers’ arrival, with them all rushing back to the weigh-station dock promptly, at 17:00, for fear of disqualification.
My first time in a fishing tournament and I didn’t quite know what to expect, but Captain Codney Capron was more than ready to take on the challenge, having placed first and second in the tournament in previous years. The atmosphere was electrifying and intensified during the last few hours of each day, with everyone eager to race to the leader board and confirm their position on it.
With a maximum of four anglers per boat, we felt lucky to be the only anglers fishing with Grand Slam Fishing Charters, who regularly return to their base in Turtle Cove Marina with a rainbow of flags flying.
The first day of the tournament Andy caught the largest Wahoo of the day, a nice 27-pounder, and between us we brought in two more wahoo and a mahi mahi. This was enough to land us second place and guaranteed $1500 for the largest fish caught on day one.
On the second day we went out fighting to secure our second place. The first couple of hours were slow, no bites, but when you’re fishing with Grand Slam they don’t accept no fish. They were active in changing lures, bait, checking everything, changing locations, which all resulted in a 100% landing rate and me catching the biggest fish of my life – a 103.5lb wahoo!
It put up a huge fight as I struggled to get it to the boat. My heart was pounding with adrenaline and fear that a shark would take it before I reeled it in. Three times it stripped almost all the line off the reel before we saw it glistening ice-blue under the surface. “It’s a monster!” Andy screamed as it took two of the crew to gaff it and lift it on board. We all roared with excitement as it was put in the cooler.
At 16:40 we raced back to the dock, a small tuna adding to our final weight (184lb). We were greeted with a round of applause from the crowds of spectators as we hauled the monster wahoo onto to scales. Our efforts for the weekend firmly secured us 2nd place, losing out to the winner Therapy by just 3lb!
The not-for-profit tournament raised $50,000 for island-based charities, helped by the fish auction held at the end of each day, donated by the participating boats. The wahoo fetched $950 – a bargain for this island!
Although the fishing was unusually tough that weekend, with many boats returning to the dock empty-handed, it was thanks to the local knowledge and persistence of the Grand Slam crew that we came away with the second place trophy and a total of $6,000 in prize money – helped by the fact that we won ‘biggest fish’ on both days. That trophy sits proudly on our chart table in our sail boat, a daily reminder that not all boats are designed to be fishing boats!
Katie Gutteridge is an adventure traveler, whose past trips include driving from England to South Africa with partner Andy. Last year the couple bought a catamaran and learned how to sail on their way from Florida to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Their home is in rural Leicestershire, England.