A single, hungry sailfish hunting the Atlantic waters east of Edisto Island, South Carolina, would ultimately determine the winner of the 2021 South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. The competition remained intense and unpredictable to the very end of the three-part series, with nearly 100 boats vying for a shot at the prestigious Governor’s Cup title.
Typically, the series consists of five billfish tournaments, but due to ongoing marina repairs, two locations were unable to host events this year. Those setbacks certainly didn’t deter participants from turning out for another year of summer tournament fishing.
Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament kicked off the 2021 series with a record-breaking blue marlin bite for the 65 boats participating. The Georgetown tournament is a fan-favorite event and has a long history of bringing families together to celebrate the holiday weekend.
Although the third day of fishing was called off due to weather, 46 blue marlin were released during the tournament, along with seven sailfish, two white marlin and one spearfish. Three of those fired-up blue marlin came as a critical tripleheader for Inappropriate, a 69-foot Spencer owned by Frank Holtham and captained by Andy Crews. The Inappropriate team had already released a blue marlin the day before, but so had numerous other boats, so their triple release decided their finish in the tournament rather abruptly, winning with a total of 2,400 points. Reel Hook Up, owned by Michael Carter and captained by Stuart Lackey, finished in second with 1,800 points for their three blue marlin releases. Stephen Davis’ Bench Mark team took third after releasing two blue marlin with Capt. Bobby Garmany at the helm.
It wasn’t just the incredible number of blue marlin released that wowed participants and spectators that weekend. Excitement at the scales ran high once it was announced that Sportin’ Life, a 59-foot Spencer owned by Graham Eubank and captained by Mike Glaesner, had boated a blue marlin. Eubank fought the 445.3-pound fish alongside his son, Gray, and a group of friends with whom he has fished for many years. The Eubank family and Glaesner have a long history of landing fish during the Georgetown tournament, and some have even playfully suggested that the tournament’s name be changed to the Glaesner Invitational.
In the midst of the numerous blue marlin reports, biologists and competitors also celebrated the return of another important gamefish species to the Governor’s Cup: yellowfin tuna. A yellowfin hadn’t been landed during one of the tournaments in over a decade, so it was a welcome surprise when two made their way to the scales. Hopefully this is evidence of conservation efforts at work throughout the region.
Carolina Billfish Classic
In recent years, it’s almost been expected that one day of the Carolina Billfish Classic will get blown out, and that was the case in June when weather kept the fleet at the dock on the first day.
A fleet of 40 boats turned out to fish this year, many for the first time at the CBC, with quite a few center-consoles as well. By June, it’s expected that the fleet will see fewer blue marlin and more sailfish than during late April and May, and sure enough, the sailfish numbers rose to the occasion. Nineteen sailfish, nine blue marlin and one white marlin were released over the two days of fishing.
Glazed, a 58-foot Dean Johnson owned and captained by Miles Herring, would eventually take the win, which was decided on time after a fish-for-fish battle with Blue Sky, a 60-foot Spencer owned by Greg Smith and captained by Jay Weaver. Both boats ended with 1,000 points after each team released one blue marlin and two sailfish—a matter of minutes made the difference in the standings. Stephen Cannon’s Lucid Interval placed third in the tournament with one blue marlin release with Nick Alotta at the helm.
At this point, the standings in the series left plenty of room for a shake-up. With one tournament leg to go, Inappropriate remained on top with 2,650 points. The second, third and fourth place boats—Reel Hook Up, Home Run and Blue Sky, respectively—were all tied with 1,850 points each. With a released blue marlin worth 600 points, it was definitely possible for the competitors to close in on Inappropriate, which is exactly what would happen in the third and final leg: Edisto.
Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament
This premier event held in the small island town of Edisto Beach has beachgoers booking rental houses a full year in advance just to match their vacation dates with the tournament schedule. This year, when a blue marlin was expected at the scales just after midnight, most thought the crowds would turn in for the evening. That assumption underestimated the interest and resilience of the true Edisto fan as crowds packed the docks.
Wilson Springs fought the 117-inch fish for six and a half hours from the cockpit of Glazed. The crowd looked on in awe and cheered as the 505-pound fish was weighed; it was the largest blue marlin landed in the 2021 series, earning the Glazed team the award for Outstanding Billfish for the season.
Although Glazed clinched the Outstanding Billfish category, the overall tournament and series winner had yet to be determined. Home Run, owned by Steve Mungo and captained by Grant Bentley, was gunning for both titles.
A total of 39 boats fished the Edisto tournament, releasing 10 blue marlin and 29 sailfish. Home Run established an early lead after releasing one blue marlin and two sailfish—all before 10 a.m. on the first day of fishing—bringing their total to 2,850 points in the series and with another day left to fish. Inappropriate released a sailfish that day too, and also had a total of 2,850 points—all tied up going into the final day.
As fishing commenced, Inappropriate began to pull away after releasing three sails, only to find out shortly afterward that Home Run had released another blue marlin to tie them up again, with just a few hours left to fish. Then, with 40 minutes remaining, Inappropriate released one final sailfish, effectively clinching the overall win of the series.
Home Run finished the series in second place but won the Edisto tournament. Sportin’ Life placed second in the tournament with five sailfish releases and went on to win third place in the overall series standings. Inappropriate finished third in the tournament with five sailfish releases.
It was a whirlwind finish to an exceptional year. Ultimately, the Inappropriate team finished the series much in the same way they started it off—right on top.
This article originally appeared in the December 2021 print issue of Marlin.