The fourth consecutive Full Release Billfish Classic, hosted by SADSAA got off to a brisk start on Tuesday afternoon when anglers from 70 boats arrived to register for the Tournament.
Because this event is structured on the same lines as the majority of Billfish tournaments held in American waters, i.e. full release where anglers fish for a prestigious trophy and medals plus the added lure of excellent prizes, since inception the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) have recognised this tournament as a qualifying event for the World offshore Championships, therefore the winning team are invited to participate in the overall Championship in Cabo St Lucas the following year.
To add further excitement to this event SADSAA now supports the “Pop Up Satellite Archival Tag” (PSAT) programme jointly run by IGFA and Stanford University. The tags are inserted into the marlin, collect data for approx 120 days, thereafter the tag pops up to the surface and transmits the information back to Stanford University. A total of six Tags were sponsored and available to be deployed during the Tournament. We were therefore delighted to welcome representatives from the IGFA, Jason Shratwieser and Eric Combast, who were with us throughout the event.
The first day dawned a beautiful day, ideal for Marlin angling and all the boats got out to sea safely. In Richards Bay radio communication is difficult but nonetheless by mid morning it was obvious that there were marlin around as reports of strikes were coming in pretty regularly. All was revealed when the boats docked and the anglers came to register their releases and check their tackle; 15 marlin and 3 Sailfish were released on the first day. We were delighted to hear that the first PSAT ever to be deployed in the Southern Hemisphere was used to tag a Blue Marlin by Riaan Chalmers on the boat BIG W.
The forecast for Thursday was not good and unfortunately proved correct when a big SW wind came through overnight, causing the tournament to be called off for the day. That evening at the Braai at the Ski-Boat Club Lapa the talk was positive as the forecast for the final two days was good.
Friday at first light looked to be another good day, but the NE wind picked up fairly early making sea conditions difficult due to the previous days westerly. It did prove to be another good day for marlin however with 11 fish tagged and the second PSAT deployed by ENIGME also in a Blue Marlin. At the end of Day 3 things were looking tight on the leader board as several boats had two Marlin; the race was on for someone to get his third fish early on Saturday.
Saturday again dawned a lovely day but unfortunately the NE picked up strongly early on and as there was very little current the sea became wet and uncomfortable quickly especially for the smaller boats who returned to base quite early; it also seemed to have an affect on the fishing as only 5 fish were released, 3 Marlin and 2 Sailfish.
The most important release on day three was of course on the boat TRINITY who released his third Marlin at 11.50am, the only boat to release 3 Marlin during the tournament making him a clear winner
On Saturday evening the anglers assembled in the marquee for the Prize Giving, the majority looking very smart in their Columbia shirts. Dick Pratt, the Tournaments officer and Marius Vermaak the President went through all the usual formalities and thanks before getting into the main part of the evening the Prize Giving. Each angler who released a fish was presented with a medal. Robson Green from the UK TV Programme “Extreme Sports Fishing” fished on MESTEPH on the last day of the tournament and was also presented with a medal as a memento of his participation. Robson gave a brief acceptance speech during which his trademark Jordie comedy came through strongly, keeping the crowd entertained.
Marius Vermaak presented the IGFA representatives with a plaque and both Jason and Eric said they had had an enjoyable week, they were really impressed with our event and also surprised at the number of species of marlin we catch in our waters. They both said they would like to return to South Africa and see more of our country.
The Trophy and cheques were then presented to the winners TRINITY on 300 points and then to DOHAZI 2nd and MISCHIEF II 3rd both on 200 points decided on the time based International rule “first last fish”.
In total 34 Billfish were released namely: 5 Sailfish, 7 Black Marlin, 4 Striped Marlin and 18 Blue Marlin.
SADSAA would sincerely like to thank the sponsors of this event and Richards Bay Ski-Boat Club without whom it would not be possible. The full list of winners, prizes and sponsors is attached to this report.
On behalf of the SADSAA Executive and Committee we would like to thank both our sponsors and the anglers for their participation and look forward to seeing everyone back next year.