thumnb king of ht ehill
It’s an idea that’s been brewing for some time now: a way to recognize (and reward) the team that catches the largest blue marlin of the tournament season, with prize money for the biggest blue landed on the East Coast and also in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the King of the Hill and it’s set to kick off in just a few short months.
The brainchild of noted sportfishing captain and tournament director Robert “Fly” Navarro, the King of the Hill concept is a relatively simple one. “We’re aligning with the most prestigious blue marlin tournaments in both regions—the Gulf Coast and the East Coast—and giving the teams that fish those events a chance to prove that they’re the best on the water,” he says. “Teams submit one entry fee that covers them for the entire tournament season, and whoever lands the largest blue marlin in a sanctioned tournament wins the jackpot. There will be a Gulf Coast division and an East Coast division, so the two regions are not competing directly with each other.” With only 10 percent withheld to cover expenses, it could wind up being a sizeable windfall for the winners in both areas.
“We’ll follow each tournament’s existing rules to the letter, especially those regarding qualifying lengths and weigh-ins,” Navarro reports. “If it’s a qualifying blue marlin for them, then it qualifies for us. That way it’s fair for everyone who participates.” The King of the Hill is open to tournaments in the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico but not in the Bahamas, Bermuda, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico or Hawaii—continental United States waters only. The entry is $1,500 per team for the entire season and is discounted to just $1,000 if paid prior to July 4, 2015.
Navarro says that a roster of participating tournaments will be published soon but will include the major events in both regions. The East Coast swing will include events from the Carolinas to Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, while the Gulf Coast events will represent Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. “The tournaments will want to be involved because there’s a ton of exposure for them to gain the bragging rights of weighing the largest fish, and there’s also no financial cost for them to support the King of the Hill. It’s a win/win for the teams and the tournaments!”
And while much of the tournament activity in recent years has revolved around catch-and-release fishing, this one rewards those teams who can still manage to boat a large blue marlin. “It’s becoming somewhat of a lost art,” Navarro says. “It’s phenomenal that we release well over 95 percent of the blue marlin in tournaments in the U.S, but there’s considerable interest generated in those few fish that are brought to the docks. Each one is studied by scientists who can learn a tremendous amount from studying things like their otoliths [earbones] and stomach contents, among other things. And the fish that are brought to the dock are rarely wasted, with the meat going to feed the hungry in the local communities.” Navarro indicated that the events he supports also generate considerable funding for The Billfish Foundation’s conservation work too.
As the event grows, he also anticipates a possible East Coast vs. Gulf Coast shootout, although it’s not in the plans for the inaugural season. “It would be very easy to add a shootout category to reward the team catching the biggest blue marlin of the season from both coasts,” he says. “That would really up the ante when it comes to bragging rights for the next year, not only in terms of the winning team but also the winning tournament, the top marina and even the state from where the fish was caught. It’s just another way to gain some notoriety for the sport, the events and the participating teams.
As part of his Fly Zone Fishing concept, Navarro also runs the annual Gulf Cup Fourth of July Blue Marlin Shootout, a one-day only tournament that takes place across the entire Gulf of Mexico on the Fourth of July each year. Participating teams have the opportunity to hunt for a truly giant blue marlin, with a number of eligible weigh stations conveniently located throughout the region from Florida to Texas. It’s modeled after the highly successful World Cup event that takes place worldwide on the same day—many teams elect to fish in both events concurrently. The Gulf Cup is a qualifying event for the King of the Hill, with a full list of sanctioned tournaments to be published shortly.
For more information on the King of the Hill Blue Marlin Tournament, contact Fly Navarro at 561-310-9214 or by email, [email protected].