The 25th Annual South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series got off to a rousing start last weekend during the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament at Georgetown Landing Marina.
Fittingly, blue marlin were at the forefront of the 46th annual Georgetown tournament, which is the oldest billfish tournament in the Palmetto State and was founded by the late Wallace Pate in 1968 with blue marlin as the target species.
For the first time since 2005, more than one blue marlin hit the scales not only in the Georgetown tournament, but in the entire series – both on one day.
The marina was buzzing on the second day of fishing – last Friday – when two blue marlin meeting the 105-inch minimum size limit for a Governor’s Cup event were brought to the dock by the crews of Arica and Sportin’ Life.
From 2006 to 2012, no more than one blue marlin was brought to the dock in any of those years in the entire series comprising either four or five tournaments.
The small field of 33 boats also released 21 blue marlin, not including numerous fish that were hooked up but lost. Ten sailfish and seven white marlin were also released for a total of 39 billfish released or landed.
“It was exciting to have two at one time, but 23 blue marlin for the number of boats we had was pretty sweet,” said Georgetown Landing Marina General Manager John Horton. “That was what I thought was impressive. The fishing was just good. The weather was about perfect for blue marlin fishing.”
Sportin’ Life, out of Toler's Cove in Mt. Pleasant, landed the largest blue, a 534.2-pounder that measured 111.25 inches (curved length) and went on to win the tournament for the second time in three years.
Sportin’ Life also released two blue marlin and a white marlin, to go with the blue they landed, to accumulate 2,035 points for the win in the series opener.
Sportin’ Life is a mainstay in the Governor’s Cup series, and the owners, the father-son duo of Manly and Graham Eubank, have fished the series since its inception in 1989. Graham Eubank was left impressed with the blue marlin bite during the tournament.
“I would say that was one of the best blue marlin bites we’ve had in a long time,” said Graham Eubank. “A lot of fish were caught but a lot of fish were seen and even hooked up but not all able to be landed of course. It was just an incredible bite out there mainly for the blue marlin - best I’ve seen in quite some time.
“The beauty of the Georgetown tournament is it is fished up there where the Georgetown Hole has always held a lot of blue marlin. That’s why a lot of people enjoy fishing that tournament.”
Rascal finished second with 1,600 points after releasing two blue marlin and two sailfish. Frayed Knot was third with 1,500 points for releasing two blue marlin and a white marlin.
Sportin’ Life’s big day was last Friday when the crew released a blue marlin that was just under the minimum size limit at 8:47 a.m., released a white marlin at 1:05 p.m. and hooked up with the big blue marlin at 2:40 p.m. while fishing offshore and south of the Georgetown Hole.
Veteran angler Dixon Pierce took the rod for the keeper blue marlin, which hit a lure on a short rigger, and the fish was in the boat within 45 minutes.
“The fish put on a show, charged the boat a couple times, and wore herself out pretty good,” said Eubank. “She stayed on top most of the fight - it was real exciting the whole time we had her on. We could tell right away it was a keeper fish. We measured it after it was in the boat.”
The last time more than one blue marlin was brought to the dock during a Governor’s Cup series was 2005 when 6 were brought in. Again, Georgetown was at the forefront, with three being weighed in during that tournament.
Eubank offered his thoughts on why the blue marlin bite was so prolific during the tournament.
“It has a lot to do with water temperature and the weather pattern,” said Eubank. “The dolphin fishery being so good helps - those fish are feeding on the smaller dolphin.
“Another reason is because of the conservation the Governor’s Cup has practiced for so long, using circle hooks, releasing the fish, raising the (minimum size) limit on the (blue marlin that can be weighed in). All those things probably go into improving the number of fish out there. There are a lot of factors.”
Other award winners from the 46th Annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament follow:• Outstanding Billfish Conservationist | Rascal, 2 blue marlin, 2 Sailfish released.
Outstanding Billfish Landed | Sportin’ Life, angler Dixon Pierce, 534.2 pounds.• Outstanding Dolphin | Crystal Blue, angler Buck Bessinger, 48.6 pounds.
• Outstanding Tuna | Rookie IV, angler Eddie Buck, Jr., 22.8 pound blackfin.
• Outstanding Wahoo | Big Sky, angler Jamie Beard, 60.4 pounds.
• Blue Water Conservation | Petrel, Tag and Release 15 Dolphin.
• Outstanding Youth Angler | Micabe, angler Andrew Jennings, 21.4 pound dolphin.
• Outstanding Youth Angler-2nd | Rascal, angler Graham Rogers, 15.2 pound dolphin.
• Outstanding Youth Angler-3rd | Summer Girl, angler Fisher Jackson, 13.6 pound dolphin
• Outstanding Female Angler | El Tejano, angler Kathy Baxley, 19.0 pound dolphin.
Outstanding Female Angler-2nd | Wildlife, angler Amy Brandon, 14.4 pound dolphin.• Outstanding Female Angler-3rd | El Tejano, angler Alana Perry, 12.2 pound dolphin.