“So, are we fishing the VMC again, aye Fred?”
“yeah mate….but we will play a bit of golf, you know… don’t have to go out every day, especially if it is rough.”
“aaaaayyyee? So just one team then?”
“yeah, that will do it.”
That’s how the conversation went, but in typical Ultimate Lady style, we end up fishing every day, bar the one compulsory day off. Which of course suits me fine, as I only like catching marlin, and in this tournament, there was only one fish too catch. Blue Marlin! The Vanuatu Marlin Classic runs for a week, and each team entered fishes for 3 days only, having to pick their 3 days a month or so before. There is some very good logic to all of this, which I wont go into.
So, having only entered one team, “Ultimate Lady Team A” it made things easy for me, ie I only had to concentrate on out bidding the sharks in the Calcutta for the one team, or so I thought. Then a week after the aforementioned conversation, I was told, “Nah, two teams mate”. So, we then fish 6 out of the 7 days available, but can end up fishing against our selves, as we did last year, when we were 1st and 2nd, with a marlin for each team, only to be beaten by a team who caught a marlin on 15kg line and scored more points on the 2nd last day.
Which brings me to the other focus of the tournament. It is set up to give every boat as equal chance as possible, ie you catch a marlin on a lighter line class. You score more points. Simple. The line classes are 15kg to 37kg. This inevitably gives the small maneuverable boats a leg up against the large boats and brings every one onto the same playing field. The points are set up so 2 fish on 37kg line doesn’t beat 1 fish on 15kg. The other main focus of the event is the money up for grabs, in the Calcutta and prize places, so each boat has a different observer onboard each day. They observe that the fishing rules are abided, and that in fact, you do actually catch a marlin, or, if you catch more then one marlin, that it is another fish, and not the same one tagged twice!
Every thing was now very simple. Team A fished the first 3 days, we had a day off (played golf) and Team B fished the last 3 days.
The first day Team A, went 3 for 3 on blues on 50lb and our team was sitting fairly smugly as we ran in to present our lures/leaders/hooks for inspection. Only to find to our horror, 1 fish was disqualified because after tagging the blue, we accidentally broke the leader and couldn’t retrieve the hook from the fish, therefore not able to present the entire rig for inspection. The second day was a little rougher and we went 1 from 2 on 50lb, which saw us clearly in the lead, and sitting with little smirks on our faces. J
The 3rd day was rather scruffy and we didn’t see a fish, but still the smirks remained, and now I was on the receiving end from my anglers (one in particular) that I bought the wrong team in the Calcutta! (I had bought team B a week earlier)
“You bought the wrong bloody team! You should have bought both!”
“How was I supposed to know!!? Anyway, you didn’t give me enough money for both! We were only supposed to fish one $%#@ team in the first place! Would have made it much easier!”
So, We decide that if we really want a chance at winning this, we cant just relax, that we must go out and attempt to beat team A, and we should fish 15kg.
Team B saddles up, and given the finer points on our 3, 15kg rod programme. Only 3 rods were used to keep it all-simple, or so I thought, for the fish, but mainly for the anglers!
The program went like this;
The fish was raised on say, the left teaser, as the fish was teased to the boat, the angler, picked up the center rod, moved to the left and placed the lure just behind where the marlin originally was. So, as the teaser is removed from the water and the now hungry marlin, which almost pokes his nose into the transom, turns to see the last offering available,(the anglers lure) and promptly wolfs it down. Easy?
Well, that’s how it was supposed to go anyway. My angler who has fished many many times with us, and pitched baits and lures to many many marlin, suddenly decided this was the first time he was going to catch a marlin. He picked up the center rod after much persuasion, and started to pull it in! NO! WALK LEFT! So, he placed the rod back in the holder and went down to attempt to catch the marlin on the teaser. NO! THE ROD WITH THE HOOK IN IT! Oh, back up to the rod, and as he made his way left to place the lure in its position, the marlin decided it had had enough and tried to “wolf” down the lure. However, failed due to the lure being jerked, pulled, popped around as the angler stumbled down our stairs. OK, so now the marlin is behind the lure, and just about to eat it….Then in the corner of my eye I see the teaser going back into the water, and not surprisingly, the marlin see’s it as well!! And follows it in again! (This is one sure way not to catch a marlin)
In the end we hook the fish, however we ended up breaking line, soon after. But now Team B assures me, they know the program, and are like coiled springs!
The day finishes for us with 1 blue tagged on 15kg line, another boat has taken the lead with 2 tags on 15kg. SH*T not so smug any more….
So it’s game on for us. Friday the 5th was a great day out, the weather was easing, and the fish were snapping. We went 2 from 5 bites, both tagged on 15kg, which put us back in the lead. The now 2nd place contender didn’t even get a bite that day, and there were a few other boats that also tagged a fish on 15kg. So it was any ones game, We were leading, but only just and it only took one of these other boats to have a great day, like we just had, and “we would snatch defeat from the arms of victory.”
What was interesting and the highlight of this day was we boated a fish. The tournament is essentially tag and release, but has a rule, that if a fish is weighed and the line class record broken, then full tag and release points were awarded. But if the record wasn’t broken, then no points were awarded. So, here we have a fish I called easily over 500lbs on, and everything looks hunky dory, the fish is jumping, heading down sea, we don’t have too much line out. So, I ask the angler if he is interested in boating this fish, as I reckon it’s over the record of 198kg. “No” came the reply, and fair enough I thought, we should be able to tag this and collect full points, which we needed.
The fight was spectacular, big jumps close to the boat and us trying vainly to keep up with this fish and pushing 12knts in reverse. We get the leader twice, with more jumping and then it dives……
“Arrh, this doesn’t look good”.
Down it goes. We dump more line in the water to get back in front and push the fish down sea and onto the surface again. It works, and the chase is on again. Only about 200meters of line to retrieve.
The fish is on the leader and swimming hard. We get the tag in, and the observer is all happy. Now to get the hook out, and then comes the call….
“Is it big enough?”
“YES.” I say.
“Is it bigger then the record?” as Benny is struggling on the leader and we are still doing 5 knts in reverse.
“YES!” Benny and I both retort.
So in it comes, which was probably easer then removing the hook! Back at the wharf, the fished weighed in at 220.2kg, caught by Greg Colburn on 15kg line. A new Vanuatu line class record.
The last day was a ripper, 15knts and easing, all the boats knew where the fish were, and everyone patiently waited for the blues to start biting….and we waited…well, we waited. Everyone else was getting bites! Then finally, I marked one and raised it on the right rigger.
“Here we go boys, on the right!”
Ooh sh*t, it looks pretty good, I say quietly to myself.
I pull the boat out of gear on the bite, and retrieve the right teaser from the water. The angler is now center stage, rod in hand, and is saying,
“Im onto the backing!!” ie getting very close to having half the spool of 15kg line in the water. I naturally don’t believe him, and neither does my crew. We are probably only 30 seconds into the fight at this point. So, just as I start backing down, with the left rigger line still being bought in, the fish surfaces, and starts jumping, back toward the boat, and is pretty much the fastest marlin I have seen. The angler was winding furiously now picking up line, however not because the fish was jumping towards the boat, but because we were no longer attached to it. I stopped the boat and we all watched a real nice fish over 600lbs freight train past us. All I can do was laugh.
More boats were on the score board now, and as the hours whittled away, the fish went off the bite for all but a few, and with 2 hours to go, we nervously hooked up again, with the leader just out of reach after 7 minutes, we parted line and company with this fish. Bugger! Then, again, with just half an hour to go, we hook another, which we fought past 1600hrs and stop fishing call, and again, pulled the hook!
In the end what was one of my most memorable days fishing, we actually didn’t even catch a fish, we went 3 for 0, with a nice one thrown in for kicks. But holy sh*t it was a great day out!
Ultimate Lady Team B ended up taking out first place, and the Calcutta. (See I did buy the right team!)
Ultimate Lady Team A came in at 3rd and the Escapade team came in a very very close 2nd.
All though the tournament lacked a few teams this year, it was a huge success. The fish turned up in large numbers and everyone saw plenty of action. What was interesting, in hind site, was too win, you didn’t have to fish light tackle. We could have fished 37kg, and caught all the fish we snapped off, 3 plus the 3 we did end up tagging, and we probably would have caught that nice one. But in my mind, I had one of the best weeks fishing ever and its because we DID, fish 15kg line. So coupled with a great location and great committee and good friends, next year is sure to be another cracker.