Fearsome Hurricane Frances didn’t dampen the fishing at the 32nd annual USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT), held August 26-30, out of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. A record 43 million dollar sports fishing yachts with some of the most
elite sports fishermen in the world released 141 blue marlin for a catch rate of 3.3 marlin per boat over the four-day tournament.
Unbelievably, the top boat going into the last day of fishing – South Paw, a new Bayliss 62 owned by Bob DeGabrielle, an angler who hails from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and divides his fishing time between Venezuela and the Virgin Islands – pulled out of the event when Frances started heading westward. Yet, being the first boat to release seven blue marlin carried through the final day of fishing when South Paw maintained its Top Boat lead.
“I didn’t know we won until I got home,” said DeGabrielle by phone.
He recapped South Paw’s three days of fishing: “The first day I hooked one in the first hour then another angler, John Bayliss, caught the other. The second day we saw three, but couldn’t keep any of them on the hook. On the third day, I caught one in the first twenty minutes of fishing. It seemed that whatever rotation I took on the rods, that’s the one that struck. I had three releases by noon, and John released another two in the afternoon. We thought the storm would track north, but when it started heading west, I decided to get out of there. We usually fish about 100 days a year and I didn’t want to have the boat out of commission from storm damage.”
In other awards, St. Thomas charter boat, Marlin Prince, a Viking 45, finished second top boat, while Therapy, a Hatteras 53 captained by Ray Walters, ended third. Both Marlin Prince and Therapy scored seven marlin releases.
Bruce Barker, fishing aboard the Viking 55, Cool Runnings with Capt. Frank Gibbs at the helm, released five blue marlin to land as Top Angler. The second place angler award went to Jules Paderewski aboard the Viking 58, Freebie, with five releases. DeGabrielle
finished with four releases and landed as third place angler.
The top lady angler award went to Debra Freeman with three releases. Freeman fished aboard the Viking 61, Blue Bayou.
Thirteen-year-old Morgan Miller, released three blue marlin aboard Therapy, to win Best Junior Angler.
The USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament was also the finale of the new Bermuda Triangle Series a trio of events that included competition in the Bahamas in June and Bermuda in July. Jose Valdez’ Viking 61, Lady Lou, won Top Boat, while Luis Bacardi, aboard the Bertram 54, Rum Bum, scored Top Angler.