It’s the thrill of the
bite, the adrenalin-pumping fight and the awesome release of a magnificent blue
marlin back into the sea that entices the cream of the crop of sports fishermen
from around the globe to fish in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament.
“What draws anglers to the Virgin Islands
is the blue marlin fishing. The blue marlin fishing in the Virgin Islands is
some of the best in the world,” says tournament director, Jimmy Loveland.
Backing up this statement, last year
anglers aboard a record 43 sports fishing yachts, released a total of 141 blue
marlin for a catch rate of 3.3 marlin per boat over the four-day tournament.
Started by Chuck Senf back in 1972 –
and nicknamed The Boy Scout Tournament since a portion of the proceeds have
always benefited the VI Council of the Boy Scouts of America, one of Senf’s
favorite charities – the ABMT has evolved into one of the premier fishing
events in the world. It’s one of tournaments making up Bisbee’s World Billfish
Series, is a qualifier for the Rolex-IGFA Invitational “Tournament of
Champions”, and the last exciting leg of the prestigious Bermuda Triangle
Following International Game Fishing Association
guidelines, overseen by a professional Board of Captains and well-qualified
observers, this event is fished by some of the most elite sports fishermen in
the world. Last year’s Top Angler, Bruce Barker fishing aboard the Viking 55, Cool Runnings with Capt. Frank Gibbs at
the helm, is an ABMT veteran and released five blue marlin to win.
“We are expecting 40 or more boats and the
fishing should be excellent,” said Jimmy Loveland, tournament director. From
early July, blue marlin releases and hook-ups have counted some 6 for 8 to 10 a
day, as discovered by visiting and local charter sport fishing boats. This
three-in-one tournament boasts prizes for anglers, crew and boats.
Some of the boats already signed-on to fish
the ABMT this year include Reel Tight,
HT Hook, Sharky’s Revenge and Rum Bum. “These boats are
owned by world class anglers,” Loveland says.
The ABMT kicks-off on Sunday August 14 with
the Innovative Wireless Handline Tournament for junior anglers. Starting at
9:30 am, kids can pick up complementary bait and handlines, and then take to
the docks around American Yacht Harbor to try their luck. Even those that get
skunked receive free pizza, drinks and T-shirts.
A welcome party on Monday, August 15
officially launches the big boys’ fight to see who will reign supreme in the
Fishing days are August 16, 17, 18 and 20 –
three days before and a day after the month’s full moon – punctuated by a “Full
Moon Party” hosted by the Ritz-St. Thomas on the August 19th lay day.
Lines are in the water daily at 8:30 a.m.
and out at 5:30 p.m., meaning that by 6:30 p.m. spectators can catch the spirit
of sport fishing by ‘doing the docks’ and watch the big rigs come in and spot
the flags flying from the outriggers. The more flags, the more marlin the
boat caught. Flags are flown upside down for released fish and right side up
for fish that are boated. Blue signals the catch was a blue marlin, while white
flags denote a white marlin.
Final fishing action on August 20 ends with the
sport fishing fleet’s swift Jim Smith ‘Race From The Edge’. The best place to
watch this often photo finish is from the spit of land past the pool at the
Sapphire Beach Resort. The Awards Ceremony takes place later in the evening
along with the naming of the 2005 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Top Angler,
who pockets a $10,000 cash prize.