The sports fishing was slamming good at the Presidential Aruba Caribbean Cup, presented by the Aruba Airport Authority and hosted out of the Varadero Aruba Marina & Boatyard in Oranjestad. In fact, a first day Grand Slam – the catch of a blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish in one day, aided the team aboard the 57ft Paul Mann, Naira, to successfully defend its Top Boat title and for one of its anglers, Carlos Isaza, to earn Top Angler.
“The first day we fished along an edge 20 nautical miles north of the northwest point of Aruba,” says Ruben ‘Bincho’ Mansur Jr., owner and angler aboard Naira, a team which has won the best boat prize three times in this seven-year-old event. “We released one blue marlin, three white marlin and one sailfish, and scored an extra 100-point bonus for a Grand Slam.”
The Naira team kept the bite going on day two by catching and releasing the same mix of species, plus a whopping 180lb yellowfin tuna caught on 30lb test line, to end the day in the lead. However, it was the anglers and crew aboard the 37ft Bertram, Living Easy, who had a day to remember.
“The second day was the best fishing for our team,” says Herbert Merryweather, whose Living Easy is part of Merryweather’s Aruba-based Driftwood Charters fleet. “At one point, we were only one fish away from matching the point total of Naira. It was as if any time we caught a fish and got close to them, they would catch another one.”
Living Easy’s shot at overtaking Naira soon came in the form of a nearly 600lb marlin. However, two hours into the fight, more water was coming into the cockpit while backing down on the fish than the boat’s three bilge pumps could pump out. A peek into the engine room revealed two feet of water. The anglers started to bail, while the crew tried to figure out the problem. Nearly an hour later, with the bilge pump’s filters and strainers cleaned, the team was back in action. Shortly afterwards, unfortunately, the blue marlin broke the line and swam off, leaving Living Easy to finish the day in second place.
The fish catching action slowed considerably for the entire fleet on the tournament’s third and last day. Yet the release of a blue marlin off Naira handily cemented the team’s victory.
“Our success was due to our hook up ratio. We saw 13 fish and caught and released 11 of them,” says Mansur.
Fourteen boats released 70 billfish: 13 blue marlin, 43 white marlin and 14 sailfish, all on 30lb test line and conservation-friendly non-offset circle hooks.
“The Aruba Caribbean Cup has become one of the most highly competitive fishing tournaments in the Caribbean,” says Joan Vernon, director of the Presidential Challenge Series (which includes the Aruba tournament) and 2013 inductee into the International Game Fishing Association’s Hall of Fame for her work in billfish conservation. “This year it produced four grand slams, which speaks for itself. In 2016, the tournament teams proved that Aruba is a hidden jewel for marlin fishing in the Caribbean.”