Capt. Legare Smith of Artemis knew winning the prestigious 50th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament could come down to a quick catch and release last Saturday.
The first day of fishing was canceled due to rough seas on May 25, leaving the 44 boats competing in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series event with two days to fish two. On May 26, Legal Holiday released two sailfish and a white marlin for 700 points and eight other boats released a blue marlin for 600 points.
A mere 100 points separated the top nine boats as last Saturday dawned at Georgetown Landing Marina, with the title of the golden anniversary of South Carolina’s oldest billfish tournament hanging in the balance.
“I just knew if we wanted to be in the running, we needed to catch one early,” said Smith, captain for Artemis owner John Darby of Charleston.
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After leaving the dock at 5 a.m. on Friday, Smith decided on an earlier departure Saturday to the same area where the crew had released a blue marlin the previous day.
“There was an eddy with some south current to it, north of the (Winyah) Scarp,” said Smith. “We left at 4:15 a.m. to have time to look around. Luckily I sat down right on top of one. Lines were in at 8 a.m. and we were hooked up at 8:05 a.m.”
Just after dropping the lines back, the crew watched a blue marlin approach a squid chain teaser.
“We pitched him a Spanish mackerel with a big ol’ circle hook,” said Smith.
Tommy Chimento, a high school fishing buddy of Darby, took the rod – 50-pound standup gear – to battle the estimated 300-pounder.
“We were on that fish for an hour,” said Smith. “The fish went deep so we couldn’t catch it quick. We all just kind of rooted Tommy on. He was strapped in and it was all him working the fish up.”
The Artemis crew released the blue at 9:34 a.m., and, sure enough, time was of the essence. Artemis, Anticipation and Chasin all finished the tournament with 1,200 points after releasing two blue marlin, one each day.
Anticipation, owned by Paul Coury and captained by Harvey Shiflet, released its blue marlin at 10:51 a.m. Chasin, owned by Smyth McKissick and captained by Bennett Griffin, released its blue at 12:56 p.m.
Earliest time of release was the deciding factor, and Artemis declared the winner with Anticipation taking second place. Chasin was third.
“Time was the big thing,” said Smith. “We got lucky and got our bite early.”
Artemis also received the Outstanding Billfish Conservationist award.
Darby, Smith and crew weren’t sure of the outcome of the tournament until they returned within phone range approaching the jetties at Winyah Bay Saturday evening.
“When I turned my phone on, I had already received congrats on voicemail,” said Smith.
Smith has a long history with the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament, dating back to when he was a 15-year-old fishing aboard Petrel.
“It’s cool to win the Georgetown Tournament,” said Smith. “It’s a classic, one that’s been around forever. I’m 42 and it’s been going on longer than me.”
The two days of fishing produced 16 blue marlin releases with five sailfish and four white marlin also released. One blue marlin was brought to the dock but was under the 105-inch minimum size to be eligible for Governor’s Cup events.
Angler Robby Harrison aboard Tina’s Trippin’ weighed in the largest dolphin, a 51.2-pounder, while Tripp Johnston aboard Big Sky caught the largest wahoo, a 38.6-pounder. No tuna were weighed in.
Johnston is the nephew of Big Sky owner and captain Jim Johnston of Georgetown, who has fished in all 50 Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournaments.
Before the tournament, all competing boats received a vintage lure made by tournament founder, and Johnston’s late friend, Wallace Pate. The first boat to catch a blue marlin on one of Pate’s lures was in line to receive $2,000 and a trophy in honor of Pate.
Fittingly, Johnston and the Big Sky crew were the first boat to catch a blue marlin on one of Pate’s lures.
“We caught the only (wahoo), and we caught a 103-inch blue that we released that won the Wallace Pate trophy,” said Johnston. “The tournament itself went off well, the only glitch was the weather.”
Johnston was already eyeing another milestone.
“I’m planning on fishing No. 60 but I’m taking it one year at a time,” Johnston said.
Other award winners included:
1st Place Youth Angler: Sam Daly, 15, Voodoo Child, white marlin release
2nd Place Youth Angler: EJ Nettles, 15, Short People, 30.2-pound dolphin
3rd Place Youth Angler: Chandler Griffin, Gryphon, 25.2-pound dolphin
1st Place Female Angler: Eugenie Barrow, Legal Holiday, sailfish release
2nd Place Female Angler: Angie Matthews, Nauti Girl, 20.2-pound dolphin
3rd Place Female Angler: Lisa Loud, Bruno, 16.8-pound dolphin
The late South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell is considered the founding father of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, and members of his family, including wife Iris Faye, were on hand to participate in the tournament’s awards ceremony.
CCA Murrells Inlet Oyster Reef Build
Members of the local Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association will coordinate an oyster reef enhancement project in Murrells Inlet on June 8.
The event will get underway at the Murrells Inlet Public Boat Ramp beginning at 1 p.m. The public is invited to help. For more information, call 843-455-0371.
Gregg Holshouser: email@example.com