The Fish Bucket List
Ten must-do events for serious big-game anglers.
Throughout their lives, most anglers will spend a majority of their time fishing tournaments in their local waters.
But one of the great appeals of heading off to blue water is the unknown. So perhaps it's time to spread your tournament wings and try trolling those baits across some new fathom lines. Here, in no particular order, are some great tournament-angling opportunities that you should resolve to fish before you hit a birthday that offers more candles than cake.
Bisbee's Black & Blue
The idea of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in the fall alone would send most anglers scrambling through the house for their passports and a carry-on bag full of marlin-adorned, long-sleeve T-shirts. But there are more reasons to fish this event.
Over the last 27 years, this tourney has grown into a 170-plus-boat competition attracting anglers from around the world, and has offered some of the biggest seven-figure payouts for landing a winning fish. (Okay, it will run you about $63,000 to go all in and win the big dough.) The average weight of the winning fish over the last four tournaments—three of which were blue marlin and one a black marlin—was 451 pounds. That equals a lot of money per pound, if you win.
In fact, the Black & Blue's biggest payday came in 2006 when the winners, Bad Company 55, took home (are you sitting down?) $3,902,997.50.
For your chance at Bisbee's big fish, visit www.bisbees.com.
White Marlin Open
How could you not want to fish what many anglers call the "White Marlin Capital of the World?"
Ocean City, Maryland, draws around 300 boats per year for this event, which can offer double-digit bites per day and provides a first-place million-dollar payout.
Last year was an exceptional one for the White Marlin Open (WMO) as two tournament records (and one state record) were blown away. A 1,062-pound blue marlin, the first grander in the tournament's 36-year history, won the crew of No Problem $454,999. Meanwhile, a 93.5-pound white marlin caught by the team onboard Orion was the largest one weighed in this tournament since 1980 and earned that crew $903,442. (It costs about $16,000 to enter all skill levels.)
This event sees some of the best billfish crews from around the East Coast and attracts thousands of spectators. If you're a competing novice angler, Ocean City boasts a large charter fleet, too. Take, for instance, first-time participant Doug Remsburg, who in 2003 won the event with a 78.5-pound white that earned him $1,303,965.
Visit www.whitemarlinopen.com to enter.
World Sailfish Championship
If you're into catching large numbers of spring-run sailfish off of sunny Key West, Florida, then the World Sailfish Championship (WSC) has to be on your short list.
This seven-years-and-going-strong tournament is a five-day (three fishing days), team-oriented, all-release event. The cost is $7,500 per team, and the prize for first place is guaranteed to be at least $100,000.
The WSC is truly a numbers game. For example, 2009's winning crew, Get Lit, caught and released 22 sails. Over the last five years, the winning boat has caught an average of 15.8 sailfish.
This tourney is also known for top-notch parties every evening and celebrity attendees such as sports greats Johnny Bench, Wade Boggs, and Don Shula, to name a few.
Head over to www.worldsailfishchampionship.com for more information.
Better known as the little tournament that could.
The million-dollar-plus Mid-Atlantic $500,000 (MA500) started about 18 years ago while the United States was in the throes of a luxury tax. The powers that be at the Canyon Club in Cape May, New Jersey, decided the best way to beat back the slumping economy was with a marlin tournament that would guarantee participating anglers at least a $500,000 payout.
A couple of decades later, about 140 teams converge in southern New Jersey every August to chase white and blue marlin. And like Ocean City, Maryland's WMO, the MA500 saw a record winning fish last year, a whopping 95-pound white marlin. With marlin fishing getting better, it's time to call the crew and plan some vacation time in The Garden State. It'll run you about $18,000 to go all in.
Check out www.southjerseytournaments.com for entry deadlines.
Blue Marlin World Cup
How about a one-day, biggest-fish-wins, worldwide competition?
If that doesn't get your tournament angling juices flowing, check your pulse. The Blue Marlin World Cup takes place every
July 4, and for a total of $8,000 you can pick your fishing venue and compete from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (your local time). The tournament designates qualified weigh masters in each location, in addition to requiring two more independent witnesses to verify a caught fish's measurements.
Some of the World Cup's past hotspots have included the Azores, Bahamas, and the Cape Verde Islands. But since 2003, five of the tournament's winning fish have been caught off Bermuda, one of which weighed in at 1,189 pounds.
Kona, Hawaii, has produced six top fish since 1985, and between 1995 and 1997 all of the winning marlin were caught off Madeira, Portugal.
Visit www.bluemarlinworldcup.com for more information.
Bahamas Billfish Championship
Does spending your spring in the Bahamas chasing blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish seem like a good idea? Then the Bahamas Billfish Championship (BBC) is for you. Since 1973, the multi-stop BBC has included as many as six separate tournaments.
Teams may compete in all of the Championship's tournaments or even just one. The overall winner, however, is based on cumulative points throughout all of the series' events. Last year's winning team onboard Double Dog caught and released six blue marlin, three white marlin, and six sailfish over five tournaments, which included the Treasure Cay Championship, Boat Harbour Championship, Cape Eleuthra Championship, Central Abaco Championship, and the Bimini Championship.
Entering the BBC requires a mandatory $1,000 membership fee and a $2,000 entry fee per tournament.
Check out www.bahamasbillfish.com for this year's dates.
The Big Rock
June means big blue marlin are prowling the waters off of Morehead City, North Carolina.
We know that because back in 1957 a few local anglers had a friendly fishing competition to prove there were marlin there. It took several months, but eventually one fisherman bested a blue and took home a red wagon full of silver dollars. The Big Rock was born.
These days you might need a few more wagons since recent winners at this event have been paid in excess of $700,000. Last year's top boat, Sea Creature, took home $746,820 for its 466-pound blue marlin. Back in 2007, during the tournament's 50th-anniversary celebration, the total purse exceeded $1.8 million.
This weeklong event offers anglers the chance to fish four out of six days. Entry fees will run you about $17,000.
You can visit www.thebigrock.com to take your chance at catching the man in the blue suit.
Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament
It's Kona, Hawaii, and you start fishing at the sea buoy. Call it billfish nirvana.
Simply pick out your five or six best lures and work the water. Last year, which was also the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament's (HIBT) 50th anniversary, the fish were biting. Seven blue marlin were boated and another 98 blue marlin were released. In addition, 30 shortbilled spearfish, five yellowfin tuna, one sailfish, and one striped marlin were caught.
The HIBT is a team competition, and every crew fishes on a different charter boat on each day of the tournament's five-day run. For a team of six anglers, the entry fee is $7,200, which does not include the cost of the boats. The charter-boat draw fee will run another $5,500 or so, depending on fuel costs.
Similar to the Blue Marlin World Cup, the HIBT attracts teams from around the world including the United States, Japan (last year's winners), South Africa, New Zealand, Tahiti, and more.
Enter at www.hibtfishing.com.
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic
This is one big-boat tourney that pays big bucks, too. With its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is the place to be in mid-June. As tournaments go, this one is relatively new (in its eighth year), but with consistently good fishing, it has quickly become many fishermen's favorite.
Last year, 67 teams converged on the resort to compete for nearly $1,292,000 in prize money (all-in on this event will cost you about $54,000). This competition requires 100-mile-plus runs before you can wet a line and you'll fish for two days straight before heading into the scales, which is why this event favors larger boats.
But as with the other tourneys on this list, there are large fish to be had. Last year's winning marlin, a 714.7-pound blue caught by the crew of Jasper Time, became a tournament record and was worth $325,203.75. This event also has a high-paying release division; the 2009 winners onboard A Work of Art, won $96,647.50 for their three marlin releases.
If a few days at sea is your thing, sign up at www.fishecbc.com.
Pirate's Cove Billfish
Like Key West's WSC, this Manteo, North Carolina-based event is known for the top teams flying lots of flags.
Last year's big winner for releases, Sea Toy, managed 22 of them to take first place and a $274,429 check. The primary targets here are white marlin and sailfish, but there are solid numbers of blue marlin around, too. And some are big! In fact, the 2009 top blue marlin team onboard Sea Hag nabbed a 755-pounder.
Since this tournament takes place during the second week of August, your crew should be running like a well-oiled machine and primed for a busy day in the cockpit. To get to that $250,000-plus payday, be prepared to pony up about $13,530.
To give your team a chance at flying some flags, head to www.fishpiratescove.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.