Gregg Holshouser’s Outdoors Column | Caramba wins Governor’s Cup on tiebreaker

In a record-setting year for the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, the chase to win the series title essentially came down to who fished what days.

Caramba entered the series finale, the Edisto Marina Billfish Tournament at Edisto Beach last weekend, with a 400-point lead over the second-place boat, Home Run.

When the tournament finished up Saturday evening, Caramba had released five sailfish for 1,000 release points while Home Run released 7 sailfish for 1,400 points, leaving the two boats deadlocked with 5,175 points for the series.

Caramba, owned by Bob Faith of Charleston and skippered by Capt. Dale Lackey, had elected to fish the first two of three fishing days, Thursday and Friday, July 26 and 27 while Home Run fished the first and third days, July 26 and 28.

The Governor’s Cup fishing guidelines states “In the event of a tie, the boat accumulating their points the earliest shall be the winner.”

In the end, Caramba took home its third Governor’s Cup title since 2006 simply by fishing the first two days in the tournament. Despite a forecast for rough seas on Friday, Faith, Lackey and crew headed out among only three boats in the 27-boat field to fish the second day.

“We certainly knew [a tie] was a possibility,” Faith said. “It seems like we have better luck when it’s rough so we went ahead and fished. It was in [the] back of our minds – if it ends up in a tie that [will] give us an advantage.”

After releasing four sailfish on Friday, Caramba held the lead in the overall series heading into the final day of fishing.

“We put it out there, we got a lead, and knew somebody [would] have to go out there on Saturday and beat us,” Faith said. “Then you’ve got to sit around and bite your knuckles while everybody is out there fishing on Saturday.”

While the Caramba crew waited on the hill, Home Run, owned by Steve Mungo of Irmo released two sailfish on Saturday to tie for the lead. Home Run had a fish on moments before the lines-in deadline but the crew didn’t earn release points on that last-minute hookup, leaving Caramba as the winner via the tiebreaker.

“They were a little heartbroken,” Governor’s Cup program coordinator Wallace Jenkins said of the Home Run crew.

“It was a nail biter – we didn’t have much finger nails left by the time we heard the final results,” Faith said.

While the overall series winner was being determined, Laff-A-Lott, owned by Frank Thornhill of Rockville, won the tournament with 1,800 points on one blue marlin release and six sailfish releases. Micabe finished a close second with 1,600 points on eight sailfish releases followed by Sportin’ Life with 1,400 points on seven sailfish releases.

“It’s amazing [fishing] out of here that you can catch six sails and a blue and barely win the tournament,” Thornhill said. “Ten years ago you would have walked away with it catching that many [billfish].”

Mate Newt Cagle was the angler on all six sailfish while Bryan O’Dell was the angler on the blue marlin for the Laff-A-Lott crew.

The 27 boats released 88 total billfish including 82 sails and six blue marlin during the tournament.

Although the number of boats participating in the five-tournament series was down compared to most years, a Governor’s Cup record number of billfish were released.

A total of 300 billfish were released by the 153 competing boats led by another series record, 210 sailfish releases. Also, 58 blue marlin and 32 white marlin were released.

“Without question, it sure seems like there are more billfish out there and specifically sails later in the season,” said Faith, who watched his daughter, 14-year-old Beau, catch her first sailfish on Friday. “I don’t know if it’s that their migration patterns are changing or sails are sticking around here longer or what’s causing it.

“It seems like we’re seeing more in the last three or four years than we have in the past. I wish I was a scientist and knew why, but I don’t know why. I also think boats are better at catching [sailfish]. A lot of [competing] boats go to south Florida, Mexico and other places and catch a lot of sails. I think you learn more tricks and get more experience at catching sailfish, you get more effective and efficient at it.”

Caramba is likely the only boat to win three titles in the 24-year history of the Governor’s Cup, and certainly the only boat to win three since the turn of the century. Faith’s crew, led by Capt. Lackey who has been Faith’s skipper since 2001, also won in 2006 and 2010.

“Obviously we’re pretty proud of that,” Faith said. “I’m not aware of another boat that’s won three. It’s a testament to Dale [Lackey], the way he maintains the boat and because he’s a great fisherman. We won the series but we didn’t win a tournament – I think that’s because the series really recognizes consistency and doing well across the whole year. We fished every tournament and day in and out we’re out there catching fish consistently. We’ve been fortunate enough to finish on top a few of those years.”

Tailwalker Challenge

The Tailwalker Marine Offshore Challenge will be held next weekend, August 10-11, out of Georgetown Landing Marina.

For more information, call Tailwalker Marine at 527-2495 or Georgetown Landing Marina at 546-1776.

Wild Turkey Banquet

The Murrells Inlet Longbeard Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will stage its annual conservation banquet Friday evening at The Beaver Bar Pavilion in Murrells Inlet.

Proceeds of the event go to the conservation of the wild turkey and to benefit South Carolina’s hunting heritage.

Tickets are $55 per person or $90 per couple, which includes a BBQ dinner with all the fixings, drinks and numerous auction and raffle items. Call Chris Hawley at 455-0371 for more information.