The savvy skill of finding the fishing ‘hot spots’ earned Vesper the Champion Boat title at the 23rd St. Lucia International Billfish Tournament, held October 1-4 out of IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina. The Trinidadian team aboard the Viking 50 released a total of six blue marlin and two sailfish to win by twice the points of the second place finisher and successfully defended their title from last year.
“St. Lucia is a challenging fishing venue because there are so many productive areas of billfish, so it’s important to find a hot spot,” explains Vesper’s owner, Jerome McQuilkin, who has fished this tournament four years on his boat and for many more years on other boats. “This was our primary objective entering the tournament.”
Twenty boats and nearly 100 anglers from the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe launched off in parade-style on a Bimini Start the first day of competition. Vesper headed to the south side of the island and set their first spread after a 90-minute run. This initial spot yielded little, so after an hour of fishing without catching, the team travelled further south in the direction of an interesting sub-sea structure they had identified while preparing their fishing plan earlier in the day. The move proved fruitful as Vesper released its first blue marlin by 10:30am. They held steady in this area for the rest of the day where they released two more blue marlin and two sailfish to put Vesper at the top of the leader board on day one.
“Day two we headed back south and most of the fleet came with us,” McQuilkin explains. “The fishing was slower for us. We released one blue, but the area produced about seven billfish to various boats. It was still the most productive area so far.”
Vesper maintained its lead going into Day three with a total of four blue marlin and two sailfish releases. Their nearest competitor in second place was Crazy Horse Again from Grenada crewed by veteran anglers headed by Derrick Steel, and in third place Pair A Dice lead by the experienced sports fisherman George Bovel from Trinidad.
“George (Pair A Dice) was fishing in the south with us, however Derrick (Crazy Horse Again) was fishing in the north,” says McQuilkin. “Tactically, we wanted to be in the same area as our nearest competitor, but we had not fished in the north yet so after much discussion we decided to stay south. George (Pair A Dice) stayed with us. Our plan paid off. We released two blues and we estimate the last one to be the biggest for us in the region of 450 to 500lb. It fought hard and was released after about 45 minutes.”
Crazy Horse Again and Pair A Dice finished second and third respectively. Both boats caught three blue marlin and one sailfish in total, however Crazy Horse Again won on time by catching their four fish first.
The Champion Angler prize went to Clint Quong Singh aboard Vesper who released four blue marlin and two sailfish.
“Most of us are students of the great Capt. Gerard ‘Frothy’ Da Silva who has been and is still our great mentor,” McQuilkin explains. “Our crew worked well together. They remained calm and executed in a professional way. We were fortunate to find an area that was bountiful with billfish and we established a lead from day one that gave us confidence.”
The fleet released a total of 21 blue marlin and nine sailfish in the three-day competition.
New this year was a Fishing Exposition held in conjunction with the tournament, says tournament organizer, Annie Hamu. “Capt. Anthony DiGiulian of Saltwater Professional Consulting from Florida headed up a group of awesome organizations to assist and educate our region about the importance of ocean conservation as well as look into what assistance the region could use to improve the fishing industry. His group included IGFA, The Billfish Foundation, Tony Ludovico, Peter Agardy and Pelagic Gear.”