21st Tonga International Billfish Tournament – Vava’u, Tonga
Days of perfect weather leading up to the event changed on the night of the briefing and anglers next morning were greeted with gusty 25kts winds and rough seas. The start time was delayed an hour based on the forecast that the weather would swing around to the east during the day..... it never quite made it.
It was a slow morning and around the tide change, six blue marlin strikes and hook ups were reported but only ‘Hakula’ and ‘Reel Addiction ‘managed to make them stick. The first released Blue was caught by Paul Wilson. Only three mahimahi went weight, the heaviest to Tim Dromgool, fishing on ‘Target One’, a very respectable 20kg fish on 15kg line.
Day Two ....
The weather had not settled as forecast and sea condition continued to build which restricted the boats fishing the south bank area. Reel Addiction got off to a great start with a tagged Blue at 9.00am. Six other billfish strikes and hook ups were reported through the day and the only other boat to register a fish was Lavinuella. Late in the day Sunny Hannif fishing on Hakula caught a Yellow Fin that went 34kg – it was the only Yellow Fin for the tournament. Only two Mahimahi went weight for the day. Another slow day with Reel Addiction leading the pack with 6,000 billfish points with Hakula second on 2,750 pts and third, Lavinuella with 2,500 points
With Sunday a non fishing day and Monday weather still forecast for strong gusty conditions the organising committee called a lay day for Monday – fishing to resume Tuesday.
Day Three ...
Much improved weather and the boats all headed to the infamous South Bank area. Hakula was the first boat to call in a strike, a double of sailfish but only one managed to stick on 15kg. Reel Addiction on the tide change tagged two Blues in quick sucession, Target One a nice Sail on 15kg, and Lavinuella two Sails on 37kg. As the day draw to an end there was strikes, hook ups and dropped fish and only Hakula and Reel Addiction managed another blue release each by stop fishing. For the day 13 billfish strikes, 12 hook ups and eight fish released. Two mahimahi were weighed and one skipjack tuna that went 10.50kg and new club record for angler, Mike Wood.
At the end of day three ‘The Tassie Devils’ on Reel Addiction looked very good sitting on 14,000 points, Hakula on 7,500 points and Lavinuella 3rd on 5,000 points.
Day Four .... last fishing day
The weather was fantastic with gentle seas and a light SE breeze It was an action packed day with 21 confirmed billfish strikes, 14 hook ups and 8 released fish. The points lead that Reel Addiction had looked pretty safe but the ‘Salty Dogs’ on Lavinuella had other plans. By 2.00pm they had released 2 blues on 37kg cutting the ‘Tassie Devils’ lead to just 4,000 pts. Just after 2.00pm round up, the Tassie Devils fought back releasing a blue on 24kg to gain back 3,000 points. The Salty Dogs dug in and pulled off a spectacular come back releasing another three blues on 37kg. The last 30 minutes were nail biting stuff and a few minutes before stop fishing the Salty Dogs hooked up again but dropped the fish after 10 minutes. Alas it was all over..... the Salty Dogs had a tremendous day on the water releasing 5 blues and angler Peter Lineham had nailed 3 of them. A well deserved win for the Lavinuella Team ... an unbelievable comeback and releasing 5 blues in a day let alone in a Tournament is something special. Salty Dogs 17,500 points to pip the Tassie Devils with 17,000 points.
This event has a reputation for ‘last day takes all’ and again in 2012 that is exactly what happened. The tournament fished very well given the two days of bad weather and every angler managed to catch a tournament species. No Wahoo were caught, only one yellow fin and 10 mahimahi, well down on previous years but the blue marlin and sailfish action kept the anglers very busy.
Special thanks to all our valued sponsors.
The overall billfish catch statistics .... 47 confirmed billfish strikes, 38 hook ups with 20 released billfish.