Chase Hooper doesn’t have a favorite billfish species. His only preference, unsurprisingly, is for a big one.
At the Cairns 50th Anniversary Black Marlin Tournament, he certainly got one.
Aboard the Viking II — with Capt. Billy Billson; anglers Connor McInnis, Michael McInnis and Richard McInnis; and mates Warrick Anderson and Kenton Geer — the Hatteras, North Carolina, resident caught a black marlin estimated at more than 1,000 pounds, known as a grander.
“When they call it a thousand pounds over there, it’s no question,” Hooper said of the Australia city well-known for its fishing.
Coincidentally, the tournament’s namesake celebrates the capture of the first 1,000-pound black marlin, which put the Cairns black marlin fishery on the world stage. While it wasn’t Cairns’ first grander black marlin, it was Hooper’s first.
“I spent a month and a half over there in 2012,” he said. “I caught several in the 900- or 950-plus range.”
He made the catch during the last day of the four-day Australia tournament, which ended Sept. 29. That’s when Billson went out wide of the reef while pulling lure teasers. At around 10:30 a.m., the black marlin hit a large Pakula teaser on the left side. After getting the lure away, the fish switched sides to the right lure. The group pitched a bait to the black marlin, which was hooked right behind the transom.
“The fish teased perfectly right to the back of the boat,” Hooper said. “You could tell it was a really nice fish when it bit. Then it came out the water a couple times and we got a better look.”
After a 90-minute fight, Hooper brought the black marlin to the boat for a tag and release, sending it back into the water in “excellent condition,” Hooper said. That earned the boat three tags for the tournament, which Askari won with four releases. The 54 teams competing released 40 black marlin through the tournament.