Brisk northerly fronts on the island of Bimini, Bahamas and mid-November spell one thing, the Bimini Big Game Club and Marina’s Bahamas Wahoo Smackdown.
This year mother nature gave the stream crossing fisherman a bit of reprieve on the way in. Once there, the winds of autumn began to howl bringing their characteristic white foam covering the breaking waves. As the tournament progressed, the winds kicked up its heels allowing a few hardened captains and their crew a taste of rough water fishing to compete for $10,000 cash prizes for the biggest, heaviest 3 fish category and tuna and mahi in the Ladies and Youth Divisions. The departure was more like the song “Hotel California”.
The tournament is held in Bimini every year around mid- November at the Bimini Big Game Club and Marina. This year’s event was held on November 12-14.
Bimini is at the apex of the Gulf Stream, where currents bring an “all you can eat sushi bar of bait” for world class blue and white marlin, sailfish, wahoo,bluefin, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, mahi, swordfish, grouper, snapper, barracuda, and a host of other fish on the reef. The island’s easterly shore is a huge flat offering bonefish and permit. The Big Game Club is the gracious host of this wahoo tournament, offering accommodations, a conference center, marina, Bimini Big Game Club Grill restaurant, and a port of entry to the Bahamas Commonwealth and the most famous watering hole in Alice Town, the Hemingway Rum Bar. Accommodations are very good for the visiting angler, offering just about everything you need, except fuel, available next door. The Big Game Club has hosted this tournament for many years and has had many anglers from all over the world competing for its purse.
The Club brings back nostalgia of Hemingway in the 1930s where he wrote his famous novel, “The Old Man and the Sea” and later, “Islands in the Stream”. These works of literature brought me here in 1976 at age 20, for the first time to fish for marlin in a single engine 20’ boat, with tackle that deteriorated on the first strike. (My... how adventurous irresponsibility is in youth.) Since then, I have frequented the island and the Club on numerous times in my worldwide quest for marlin.
The typical tournament day starts before sunrise, while teams arrange for “lines in” at 6:00AM--nervous in their choice of preferred areas to fish. “I can run to the Isaacs and fish there. Or should I fish out front? Maybe I should go South?” The mind is made up and the sudden drop of the throttles, to find that winning fish, brings adrenaline to its max for the teams. Each team glancing upon the other wondering who will catch the biggest, or the most- -or maybe our boat will win both. Or not? The teams always head out with the idea “we will win it”--seldom wrong, but never in doubt.....until someone calls a catch over the radio.
As the shadows of the early morning disappear, so do the fish. It becomes more challenging to catch as the mid-day sun approaches. There are a few captains and crews that, at this time, find their fishless boxes and large expanses of water more challenging. The elation and anticipation of the early start have been replaced with quiet or sarcastic nervous chatter. They keep combing the waters, moving deeper or shallower, in search of the fish.
Hmmmm…the doldrums of the mid-day, interrupted by a tuna or a mahi, bring short-lived excitement, but keep the momentum going. Several seasoned captains have retired back to port, weighed their fish, and relax before heading out for round two, the late afternoon bite. This can be one of the best times, and speed and accuracy count, as the bite can be explosive if late afternoon and proper tides align. These teams are not exhausted from the mid-day sun and seas battering them for hours, they are fresh, alive and ready, to fight again at peak performance. The afternoon brings in another element to fishing wahoo. It appears at times like a light switch is turned on, signaling the reappearance of fish in waters thought devoid of life. The reels scream again and the thought goes to make weight at the weigh station.
My experience in fishing the multitudes of tournaments has always been, catch the fish first, then give it all you have to get back. If you make it, great. If you do not, it’s all part of the stomach wrenching experience of fishing a tournament. It’s life on the edge. Money on the line. It’s the passion derived from “the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat!”
The first place, combined total weight of three heaviest fish, was 248.9 pounds by team Pachanga, followed by 232.9 pounds for Fishing A Loan team, and in third, Nervous Water team brought in 195.8 pounds to the scale. The heaviest single fish topped the scales at 71.6 pounds for team Nearly Impossible.
Next year’s tournament is scheduled for November 10-12, 2016. Our Team UKSF will be there. We hope to see YOU there too!
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