Tahla’o Tops Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament

The team nearly breaks the long-standing island record for blue marlin

Tahla’o first place team 2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
The St. Barts-based Tahla'o team emerged victorious in this year's event.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament

The Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament is one of the largest fishing events in the Caribbean, registering a record 47 teams from St. Martin, Guadeloupe St. Bart, Martinique, Barbados, St. Kitts, Germany, the United States and Antigua for their 2017 event. It’s actually two tournaments: the Mike Pigott Jr. Memorial Classic one-day billfish tournament, followed by the Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament that offers cash and prizes for billfish and game fish along with trophies for the top junior angler, lady angler and top overall angler.

The tournament really spiced things up this year by offering a $100,000 prize for anyone topping the island record of 771.25 pounds for blue marlin and also for registering as the newest qualifying event for the Offshore World Championship. Every evening the teams return to Nelson’s Dockyard with hundreds of spectators enjoying the incredible dockside socials. Live music, fresh cooked seafood, plenty of beer and rum and the beautiful Antigua community is what makes this event special. Angler James Peirce said it best: “Even though we like to compete, the main reason we come all the way from Barbados is not to win the tournament. We come for the incredible fun we have here. And with it now being an Offshore World Championship qualifying event, we have another opportunity to earn an invitation.”

The team on Incognito won the Mike Pigott Jr. Memorial Classic with three blue marlin releases, topping the fleet of 17 boats. Challenge II was second, also with three blue marlin releases, a testament to the excellent fishing off Antigua in the early summer.

2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
Incognito won the Mike Pigott Jr. Memorial Classic with three blue marlin releases.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament

The party continued with the Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament registering a record 47 teams. With the additional chance at $100,000 for the island record, teams rigged baits and lures and set the drags in hopes of finding the fish to beat the current 771.25-pound blue marlin record. The first day of fishing commenced with the traditional Bimini start from Nelson's Dockyard at 6:00 a.m. By the end of the first day, Mai Dire Mai had two blue marlin releases to take an early lead, while five other boats scored one blue each.

2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
The shotgun start from Day One was an incredible sight for the gathered spectators.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament

For the team on Tahla'o from St. Barts, the second day of the tournament would surely be one they won't soon forget. They released two blue marlin just nine minutes apart in the morning to move into the lead. Late in the afternoon, with just 40 minutes left to fish in the tournament, they spotted a big marlin feeding on the surface and enticed the blue to eat a lure. With the tournament rules requiring them to be back at the scales by 6:30 p.m. in order to weigh their fish, the race was on. With less than 30 minutes to spare, they presented their catch to the weigh master, where it weighed 734 pounds, just missing the island record and the six-figure bonus.

2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
The winning team on Tahla'o receives their invitation to the Offshore World Championship from OWC tournament director Dan Jacobs.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament

The team of Capt. Jordan Laplace, Jean-Noel Greaux, David Malespine and Aubin Thomas won in the categories of top release boat, largest fish of the tournament, first place team honors and also received an invitation to the Offshore World Championship. Three blue marlin releases on Day Two landed Incognito in second place overall for Capt. Eric Poulin, Loyd Saint Leger, Adrian Kukawski, Raphael Cavina and Dimitri Asselin. Double Header ended up in third place overall, while their angler Gregory Asiodu was the event's top overall angler.

The event culminated in an epic awards party, featuring trophies and artwork by Carey Chen, who attended the event during his first visit to Antigua. Chen also painted a beautiful original for the tournament. During the awards presentation, the tournament recognized Mick and Ruth Liney of England for their 20 years of participation in the tournament.

2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
Carey Chen created a stunning custom piece of art during the tournament.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
Double Header finished in third place overall.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
A nice wahoo heads for the scales.Courtesy 2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
The act of just hanging out with friends over snacks and cold drinks is called "liming," and it's very popular in the Caribbean.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
Tournament director Phillip Shoul and Carey Chen get set for the awards presentation.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
2017 Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament
Mick and Ruth Liney receive an award recognizing their 20 years of participation in the tournament.Courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament