When the 2005 winner of St Lucia’s International Billfish Tournament, Bernard Johnson, and his 35ft Bertram Grey Ghost led the small angling armada from Rodney Bay Marina to the sparkling waters off the sleepy fishing village of Gros Islet, history was made. Sixteen crews entered last month’s 16th International Billfish Tournament and, although less than expected, one can only marvel at the coincidence!
This was 7 a.m. on Thursday, September 28, (registration for the four day tournament was the previous day), and the “Bimini Start,” worth a 100 points for those in attendance, was underway. Thirteen of the 16 entrants churned the Caribbean blue into white foaming spume and the extra points allocated were to play a significant role in the fight for first place.
“I think we’re in the lead” said Johnson whilst enjoying a small libation and the usual dockside banter. “We tagged and released two Blue Marlin (each worth 300 points) and a sailfish (100) and we’re hoping for better tomorrow!” He was right—well, almost! Grey Ghost crew shared the 800 point lead with Black Pearl, a huge craft from Martinique which surely must shortly feature in a Bond movie, who mirrored Grey Ghost’s haul; Hard Play II had 700; Why not and Sexabord (don’t ask) had 500; Matisse totaled up four hundred; and in seventh place was Crazy Horse with 200 points.
First to the scales, however, was Reel Time’s Kelly Pollock, with a 43lb tournament record Dorado or dolphin depending on the vernacular. One of two female anglers, Kelly featured prominently in last year’s tournament and obviously has a reel future in the tournament.
The second day dawned with the same perfect conditions as the previous day. From 5 to 6 a.m. onwards, anglers enjoyed a buffet breakfast before setting out for the day’s business. The waters off Martinique were a popular destination for most anglers and Martinique didn’t disappoint.
Hard Play II had the best fish of the day, a magnificent 407 lb blue marlin, captured by Terry Hamlin, easily the best so far but would it be enough to win the tournament and send the anglers to the 2007 Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico?
The weather worsened for the lay day on day three. Overcast skies and the odd shower kept most adult anglers under the Red Bull canopy, with such traditional games as poker, dominoes and who can drink the most beer! Children, the athletic, and the hungry enjoyed Scuttlebutt’s pool side entertainment and a buffet meal.
With clear skies and it all to fish for, anglers cast off on Sunday for the final day—even the magnificent Pair-a-Dice of Trinidad and Tobago managed to overcome her mechanical gremlins to take part. However, Hamlin’s marlin wasn’t to be beat, guaranteeing the crew of Hard Play II their place in the Rolex/IGFA championship and trophies at the prize giving later that evening.
The first three boats by points were: in third place with 800 points, Why Not of Martinique; second place with 1,400 points was last year’s winner Grey Ghost; and in first place, Hard Play II of Trinidad and Tobago with 2063 points.
In all, 25 fish were released including sailfish, blue marlin, wahoo and a spearfish. Kelly Pollock of St Lucia’s Reel Time was awarded Best Lady Angler after her record-breaking 43lb dorado; she quite rightly picked up a trophy and a weekend for two at Marigot Beach Club.
Space limitations govern our coverage of the Sunday prize-giving. However, if I said that in the thirty something trophies/prizes presented from the smallest Pen fishing rod in the world to Ross Gardner of Grey Ghost for his 21lb wahoo to Best Party Boat and Hard Luck Story, (won by Pair-a-Dice from Trinidad and Tobago after mechanical trouble left them at the dock for the first three days) I’m sure you’ll understand.
See you next year!