The 2024 Sport Fishing Tournament Season is Here

Time to gear up for your favorite events
Boats with release flags flying from their rigging docked in a marina.
A sea of flags can only mean that tournament season is underway. The Buckskin Billfish / South Carolina Governor’s Cup

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Now that we are past the ­holiday season, it’s time to get ready to fish your favorite tournament. Teams from around the world are finalizing their schedules for the events they want to fish in 2024, working out the final details, and marking their calendars for what’s ahead. It’s always exciting for professional crews to be part of this planning process.

With the sailfish season underway in Florida and Costa Rica, the boats at home are catching their live baits for those tournaments, which has become an industry unto itself in the past decade. The trolling boats are buying their bait-rigging materials so they can start putting together thousands of rigs for both their hook baits and dredges. They also need to make sure those 10 to 20 sailfish rods and reels are ready to go, with new line and fresh grease in the reels. Each rod is inspected for any nicks in the guides, and the reel seats are checked too. Then it’s on to the outrigger halyards and teaser reels, and a complete inventory of all that spare tackle and extra line in the storage lockers. No one wants to run out midseason.

After the sailfish season ends, it’s time to get ready for the marlin tournaments. That means switching out all the sailfish gear and putting away the baitwells for the season. Then all those rods and reels have to be respooled and gone over carefully as well. It’s a never-ending cycle of maintenance, but if it prevents one lost fish, then it’s worth all the trouble.

Once the captain and boat owner have agreed on their plans for the season, it’s time to start calling the marinas and making slip reservations—dockage fills up faster than ever these days. Moving the boat from port to port each week or every other week is not easy, with the logistics of fuel and weather being the most important parts of the puzzle as the operation migrates up and down the coast during this time of year.

The spring marlin tournament season usually starts in the Bahamas and in the Gulf of Mexico, from Pensacola to South Padre Island in Texas. There are some big blue marlin—and some big money—in those Gulf Coast tournaments. June kicks off the Triple Crown season in Bermuda, then the East Coast swing of the Big Rock, White Marlin Open and MidAtlantic, plus a host of others up and down the coast. Farther south, there are some great tournaments in the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico down to Grenada and Trinidad. Meanwhile, the guys in Costa Rica will be switching gears and preparing for the seamount trips once their tournament season winds down. Way offshore, they can average 10 to 15 blue marlin a day on those multiday trips—it’s great fun and also great practice for the anglers and crew. By the fall, things usually slow down, but then there are still the big-money tournaments to be fished in Mexico, including the Los Cabos and Bisbee’s events.

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One place everyone loves to fish in the fall is Australia, with the black marlin season on the reef running generally from September through the end of November. There are a few tournaments, but once you get there, it’s all about you and that shot at a potential grander black when you put the baits in the water.
Competitive fishing isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy the thrill of going head-to-head with others who share that same passion, it’s hard to beat. The camaraderie is like nothing else, and winning a big tournament is just the icing on the cake. Good luck this season—I hope to see you on the docks.

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