Defending series champion Reel Passion pulled out the win in the Carolina Billfish Classic, the third leg of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series which featured Toler’s Cove Marina in Mt. Pleasant as tournament headquarters and Georgetown Landing Marina as a satellite weigh-in station.
Billfish action continued to be excellent in the series as Reel Passion released five sailfish and a blue marlin for 1,600 points to nip Full Pull and Syked Out which both came up one sailfish short of the pace. Full Pull finished with 1,400 points after releasing one blue marlin and four sailfish. Syked Out also had 1,400 points with seven sailfish releases.
Capt. Gary Richardson of Reel Passion said the tournament, in which boats could fish two of three days June 28-30, was as much about the fish that were lost as those that were released.
The Reel Passion crew released the majority of their fish on June 29, including four sails and the blue marlin while fishing about 50 miles southeast of Charleston. On June 30, Reel Passion only released one sailfish but lost four sails and a blue marlin on Saturday while fishing the same area.
“We were freaking lucky to win,” said Richardson, who produced his fish on naked ballyhoo with the required circle hooks. “A lot of people had the same problem. A lot of fish were seen – most boats probably saw 5 to 10 [billfish] a day. Overall, it was really good fishing for South Carolina.”
Despite the numerous missed opportunities, the billfish catch rate in the tournament – and the series thus far – has been excellent according to Wallace Jenkins, series coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
“The catch rate was 1.3 billfish per boat per day [in the Carolina Billfish Classic],” Jenkins said. “69 billfish for 26 boats, that’s a lot. The catch rate was 1.2 for the first two tournaments at Georgetown and Bohicket. The sailfish exploded this weekend – some boats caught as many as five in one day. The best two days at [the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament out of Morehead City, N.C., in June] the catch rate was .45.”
Of the 69 billfish released in the tournament, there were 62 sailfish and seven blue marlin. No blue marlin were weighed in.
Don’t look for Reel Passion, which won the 2011 Governor’s Cup with a series record 6,075 points, to defend its title in the series. Owner Bill Ingram and crew plan to fish the MEGADOCK X Billfishing Tournament next weekend out of Charleston City Marina but will skip the Edisto Marina Billfish Tournament July 25-28, thus only fishing three of the five tournaments in the series.
Five boats fished out of Georgetown Landing Marina in the tournament including Christy II, Big Sky, Blue Sky, Rascal and Big Kahuna. Blue Sky and Rascal released four sailfish each while Christy II won the tournament within a tournament award for wahoo with a 30-pounder.
“Fishing’s good, the billfish are definitely out there,” said John Horton, general manager of Georgetown Landing Marina.
Reel Passion was named Outstanding Billfish Conservationist in the tournament. Compromise caught the largest dolphin (56.4 pounds), Dem Boys caught the largest tuna, a 25.4-pound blackfin, and Syked Out weighed in the largest wahoo (50.4 pounds).
Summer Girl won the Blue Water Conservation award after tagging and releasing seven dolphin.
Rance Jennings, age 7, aboard Micabe was the Outstanding Youth Angler after releasing a sailfish, Trent Bonifay, age 11, aboard El Tejano won second place with a sailfish release and Joe Bost, age 13, aboard Dem Boys won third place with a 19.2-pound blackfin tuna.
Angler Holly McAlhany aboard Syked Out was Outstanding Female Angler after releasing four sailfish, Stephanie Wilson-Evans aboard Cotton Picker was second with a sailfish release and Lauren Leasure aboard Summer Girl was third with a sailfish release.
Through three events, Sadie Beth leads the overall series points standings with 3,575, followed by Caramba and Home Run both with 2,775, Syked Out with 2,650 and Blue Sky with 2,575.