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The 51st Annual July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) is the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands and the tournament that put the Virgin Islands on the world’s blue marlin fishing map, the dates are July 9, 10 and 11.
“We expect 12 to 15 boats and some of the best sports fishermen from places such as Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. They are all coming for the big blues,” says Lori Baily, manager of the host Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC). “The tournament is held over the July full moon, so the fish should be biting in large numbers.”
Last year, Stephen Deckoff Sr.’s 60-foot Rybovich, Pescador, earned Top Boat. Deckoff and his son, Stephen, Jr., released a total of eight blue marlin. Deckoff Sr. released five of these blues to win Top Angler, a $10,000 cash prize and his name engraved on the perpetual Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy. Past winners of the prestigious award read like a “Who’s Who” of blue marlin sport fishing. Angler Elliot Fishman’s winning 845-pound catch in 1968 set an all-tackle world record. Only two anglers have reeled in this honor two times – the late Howard Crouse in 1965 and 1988, and Puerto Rico’s late legendary angler Ralph Christiansen in 1973 and 1984.
Catching the most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish are what anglers will set their sights on to win. Prizes will be awarded for Top Boat, Top Angler and Top Junior Angler. Winners receive exquisite hand-carved marlin head trophies by artist, David A. Wirth.
This is a conservation-conscious all-release tournament. No fish will be boated or brought to the dock for weigh-in. Points are scored based on the number of billfish released.
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), will ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Sport fishing teams can register online now at www.vigfc.com. The entry fee is $4,000 per boat or team. Final registration, where anglers will receive complimentary shirts and bags, and the Kick-off Party will take place at the VIGFC Clubhouse, in Red Hook, on July 8, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. This will be the same venue for the Awards Banquet on July 11.
Lines go in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m., except on the final day of fishing on July 11 when lines out will be at 4 p.m.
The public is invited to greet the fleet as the boats come back to the dock around sunset. The number of flags flying on the outriggers indicates how many billfish the boat’s anglers caught and released for the day.
The VIGFC assists in the support the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, including proceeds from its JOBT. The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, a 501 C (3) organization, enables all young people, especially those most needy, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Additional donations are encouraged and are tax deductible.