Bermuda has a genuine chance to win this cup

  • The Bermuda Billfish Blast starts on Monday

    The Bermuda Billfish Blast starts on Monday

It’s July and time to fish! With the America’s Cup finally drawing to a close, the visiting fleet will be giving up a spectator sport and switching its concentration on to the deep blue that surrounds this island.

While seemingly countless craft outlined the actual racing area, a few boats have taken advantage of the rather clement weather to work the offshore. The repeat visiting sport fishers Fa La Me and Blank Check have been doing just that and both have enjoyed some sport with white marlin. While this is quality entertainment without a doubt, over the next few days the focus is going to be on something larger — hopefully a lot larger.

The Bermuda Billfish Blast kicks off on Monday, with the first fishing day neatly coinciding with the Blue Marlin World Cup on the 4th of July.

The emphasis of the Blast, like so many tournaments these days, is on catch and release. Released billfish score points with blue marlin releases scoring 500 points while white marlin, spearfish and sailfish releases each score 200 points. There are mechanisms involving video confirmations that must be satisfied for the release points to be awarded. Because the Blue Marlin World Cup is based on the biggest blue marlin caught, landed and weighed in on the 4th July anywhere in the world, the Blast also has provisions for the taking of large fish. With a minimum acceptable weight of 500lb and a one fish per boat per day limit, the number of dead fish is minimised, insofar as possible.

Bermuda is a genuine contender in the World Cup, having produced nine winning fish since 1993. Considering that virtually every area known for big blue marlin is worked over in this tournament this is indeed an impressive score with only Hawaii’s Kona coast equalling it. Having said that, numbers aren’t always everything Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verde have all produced impressive winners as well. As with the Blast there is a 500lb weight minimum, meaning that it does indeed take a big fish to win.

And be in no doubt about it, the World Cup is a big bucks event with the “winner take all” format (less some administrative deductions) making for a very considerable pot. A week before the actual event there were already 80 entries at a cool five grand each.

In all such events, there are myriad rules which can be summarised as by saying that IGFA rules and regulations apply. The landlubber may not be familiar with most of them but the simple version is that the angler must hook and catch the fish totally unaided. No one else can handle the rod, touch the line or anything without disqualifying the catch. Fortunately, virtually everyone concerned is fully aware of the rules and it is not very often that an issue arises.

Not so readily apparent to the non-participant are some of the rules that keep a lower profile. Both these tournaments have restrictions on the lines that can be sued. Not only is the fishing limited to a maximum of 130lb test breaking strain line, but only approved lines may be used. These come from various manufacturers and vary somewhat so that different boats and anglers may have favourites but no matter which line is used it must be on the officially recognised list. This list consists of about 30 different lines of line — remember that there are different line test classes. When fishing for extreme fish most anglers prefer to use 130lb test rigs but there are those who use 80lb test as well.

Conditions for keeping a population of marlin in the immediate vicinity are excellent. The presence of yellowfin and blackfin tuna are always good signs especially considering the fact that they are among the billfishes’ favourite foodstuffs. Not only do the marlin make inroads into the tuna population but they are out there for the more casual anglers as well. With much of the local fleet involved in the bill fishing, some of the preferred chumming spots on the Banks will be available.

Something which can also happen is with the tendency for those seeking big yellowfins to anchor deeper rather than shallower (over 45 fathoms) along the drop-off is that their chum can actually attract blue marlin into the slick. Once there they will act like many other fish and take a piece of cut bait. Once hooked, all resemblance goes straight out the window.

Normal chumming gear, particularly the lighter 20lb or even 30lb rigs, are quite likely to be stripped as the billfish heads for the horizon. Then, too, there is the matter of getting the boat off the anchor to pursue the big fish. Very challenging but this has been successfully accomplished on occasion but unless someone really wants to catch a marlin from a static boat, get with the programme and go trolling in the deep. Doing so will virtually, at some point, result in some very Tight Lines!

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Published Jul 1, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 30, 2017 at 10:27 pm)

Bermuda has a genuine chance to win this cup

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