Some anglers fish the Bahamas Billfish Championship (BBC) for fun and others to win. Team Zues, a 58-foot Dean Johnson with angler/owner Sandy Smith, Captain Glenn Cameron, and mates Timmy Lanahan and Roberto Velazquez aboard were definitely in the latter category and they succeeded in a big way. The Ft. Pierce, Florida-based team scored a record-setting 12,000 points by releasing 36 billfish, 13 blue marlin, 12 white marlin and 11 sailfish in 15 days during the five-tournament series. What’s more they won two legs and finished second in two other legs picking up not only the overall BBC Champion title, but Top Release Team, Top Captain and Top Crew awards too.
“I’ve fished in a number of tournaments over a dozen years run by the Southern Kingfish Association,” says Smith, who prefers billfishing with baits rigged on 20 and 30lb test line. “But after fishing one leg of the BBC last year on a chartered boat, I knew I wanted to come back and win it.”
The team started out with a bang by finishing second in the kick-off Central Abaco Championship in April, even though they were short-handed with only one mate.
Next up, at the Cape Eleuthera Championship, Team Zues scored a grand slam the first day only to be disqualified when mechanical problems put them back into port late. Even so, the team bounced back with a second place finish with seven billfish releases.
“We were mad as hell after that disqualification and just shot out in the third leg (Harbour Island Championship) and won it right off,” says Smith. “Let’s just say we were really focused.”
The fish weren’t biting for Team Zues in the fourth leg, the Guana Cay Championship, and they finished far down on the scoreboard. But this didn’t bump them from first place going into the last leg, the Treasure Cay Championship that wrapped up in June.
“We finished that last tournament in second place to Double Dog, but I didn’t begrudge them the win at all,” says Smith.
Double Dog’s Bahamian angler, David Albury, weighed in an 1119lb blue that shattered the island nation’s record of 1060.5lb set in Bimini in 1979.
“Experience was a big key to our overall success,” says Smith. “I’ve known Captain Glenn for 20 years and Timmy for five years. Teamwork was important, too. We capitalized on every bite we got and there was some incredibly good fishing.”
The top teams in this year’s BBC: Zues, Wave Paver and Chasin Tail, each racked up the highest scores ever in the series’ 38 year history.
The 2011 BBC averaged 31 teams that collectively caught a record 275 billfish over five tournaments. The BBC is the oldest billfish tournament series in the world.
For full results, visit: www.bahamasbillfish.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.