While 97 boats fished the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series this year, only one of them nearly swept the whole thing, and that itself is unusual. Longtime participants would agree that it’s rare to see one boat dominate the field throughout the entire series.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament hosted a near-record-breaking number of boats, with 70 teams fishing. In recent years, the winner of the Georgetown tournament has gone on to take the title for the entire series, and so the competition was understandably fierce.
To meet the conservation mission of the series, rules require that any landed blue marlin measure at least 105 inches; of the 18 blue marlin caught during the Georgetown tournament, three of them were big enough to return to the scales. The first was caught aboard Mack 900, a 46-foot Viking owned by Patrick McGovern and Mack Marine Enterprises, just an hour after the call for lines in. The catch weighed in at 392.8 pounds and briefly settled into the top spot for heaviest blue marlin. Next up: the team on Mister Pete. Their blue weighed in at 481.6 pounds—the crew would have to sweat it out in hopes that their lead would hold.
With a points structure to favor releases, in the end it would be Greg Smith’s 60-foot Spencer, Blue Sky, captained by Jay Weaver, for the win with three blue marlin and one sailfish. Reel Hook Up, a 60-foot Hatteras, finished in second place with a total of 1,100 points for releasing a blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish. Frequent Flyer closed out the tournament in third place with 800 points for one blue marlin and one sailfish. Peter Lorris’ Hydrosphere raised the biggest cheers at the dock, weighing in a 532.1-pound blue marlin on the final day, which won the Outstanding Billfish Award for the entire series. It was a bittersweet win for the team though; tragically, Capt. Matt Bierley passed away shortly afterward.
The second series event—the Carolina Billfish Classic—hosted 53 boats this year. With one day called due to weather, the catch statistics for the two-day tournament were even more impressive, with a new tournament-record 101 billfish—16 blue marlin and 85 sailfish—released this year. Blue Sky amassed a total of 2,600 points for releasing two blue marlin and seven sailfish, which was good for the win and the lead in the Governor’s Cup race. Showtime took second place after releasing one blue marlin and eight sailfish, while Buddy Rowe finished in third with one blue marlin and seven sailfish releases.
The third and final leg of the 2022 series, the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament, has always been a family-friendly event packed with curious spectators enjoying a vacation in the quaint coastal beach community. This year’s event saw a downturn in the weather but, fortunately, 35 crews chose to stick it out and fish the tournament. A total of three blue marlin and 60 sailfish were released over two days of fishing, a catch-per-boat ratio definitely worthy of a nod, even with a reduced field. Blue Sky established an early lead on the first day of fishing in the tournament with six sailfish releases, and the possibility of a series sweep was so palpable that it almost seemed destined. As the first day of fishing came to a close, Blue Sky and Daymaker were tied for points, while Sportin’ Life, a 59-foot Spencer, was in hot pursuit of the leaders.
By the time the final day of the tournament dawned, Blue Sky’s inevitable series win had already been determined. They had accumulated enough points that it was clear that it would be extremely unlikely for another boat to catch them in their title race. However, the Edisto tournament’s final hours would prove to be a close one.
As other boats called in several releases, Blue Sky struggled to get a bite. The frenzy of the fishing they had experienced the day before, as well as in previous tournaments, suddenly waned. As the hours crept on, the teams on Sportin’ Life and Reel Hook Up eclipsed Blue Sky in the tournament standings. They would need one more sail to tie everything up, and at least two more to recapture the lead. As the torturous fates of tournament fishing would have it, a sail rushed into Blue Sky’s spread, making for a quick release for the crew. But that second necessary fish would never show up.
The three top boats in the Edisto tournament each scored a total of 1,400 points for releasing seven sailfish. The awards would be based on time, with Sportin’ Life winning first, Reel Hook Up second, and Blue Sky third. It was truly a photo finish through to the very end of the 2022 series. Weaver, Smith and the rest of the Blue Sky team undoubtedly dominated this year’s series. They earned 6,075 points for releasing five blue marlin and 15 sailfish in three tournaments. Buddy Rowe took second in the series with 3,275 points. Trashman, a 64-foot Weaver owned by Ben Wall and captained by Geno Sauers, took third with 3,250 points. After many years of close finishes and second- or third-place awards in the series, Blue Sky had finally won the title in grand style with a dominating performance this year.