CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — Before the start of the day, officials predicted there would be more billfish on Day Three of the IGFA Offshore World Championship. It was just that as teams from Croatia and Australia emerged from the back of the pack with double-digit release figures to top the leaderboard.
The ninth annual event, sponsored in part by the Secretaria de Turismo de Baja California Sur, has drawn 63 teams from 27 nations on six continents, the single largest contingent of international teams to compete in a fishing competition.
Taking the lead with 10 striped marlin releases for 3,000 points on Wednesday were the 9th Int'l Big-Game Sportfishing Tournament from Jezera, Croatia. Team members Dario Marijan, Davor Pliso, Jakov Begovic, and Vinko Radetic collectively have a three-day total of 3,900 points.
In second place with possibly a one-day tournament record was the Mooloolaba, Australia team with 11 releases of striped marlin and a sailfish.
Like the Croatians, the Australians had one of those rare moments every angler hopes for in their lifetime and they took full advantage of it to score 3,400 points. That brought their three-day total to 3,700 points after a lackluster two previous days.
Anglers Scott MacDonald, Darren Malaquin, Darren Spackman and Paul Leaman representing their win at the Springwood Marine Sailfish Shootout had 18 attempts at the fish. They were fishing on the Bill Collector skippered by Julio Gonzalez.
"We were on a huge bait ball and there were bills every where," said Malaquin describing the unique sight. "It was an unbelievable scene. Once we lost the bait we lost the marlin."
They are tied with an Italian team from San Benedetto del Tronto who dropped one position from the top of the leaderboard releasing three marlin and a sailfish for 1,000 Day Three points. Team members include Sergio de Tommasis, Fabio Gieri, Daniele Tarroni and Carlo Pezzini representing their win in the La Sfida TroFeo M. De Nardis, and are one of the four teams from Italy.
In fourth place with 3,400 points is the Islamorada, Fla., Outdoor Channel Offshore Classic team. The Miami Swordfish Tournament team has 3,334.6 for fifth place.
With only one billfish release on Wednesday, the Sinbad Classic team from the Sultanate of Oman in Muscat dropped from a tie for first to a tie for sixth place with a team from the Los Suenos Signature Billfish Series II in Costa Rica. They both have 3,000 points.
Making up the rest of the Top 17 among the 63 teams in the Day 3 standings are:
• 8th: Trofeo C.N. Sambenedettese, San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy, 2,727.6 pts.
• 9th: Marina Rubicon Marlin Cup 2007, Lazarote, Spain, 2,726.2 pts.
• 10th: YCSS-IMD Fishing Tournament, Porto Santo Stefano, Italy, 2,700 pts.
• 11th: TTGFA Tobago Int'l Game Fish Tournament, Tobago, West Indies, 2,400 pts.
• 12th: 13th Annual Top Gun Marlin & Tuna Shootout, Oak Bluff, Mass., 1,837.9 pts.
• t-13th: Falmouth Offshore Grand Prix, Falmouth, Mass., 1,800 pts.
• t-13th: 35th Annual Bluewater Tournament, St. Augustine, Fla., 1,800 pts.
• t-13th: XL Campeonato de Pesca Costeira, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1,800 pts.
• t-13th: Brits vs. Yanks Shark Tournament, Montauk, N.Y., 1,800 pts.
• t-13th: Desafio Mediterranea Faeton, Spain, 1,800 pts.
Tournament officials said most boats fished right outside the harbor. The bite was reported strong all day with many of the teams having double and triple hookups.
"The marlin were thick right outside the harbor," reported local dockmaster Mario Banaga. "There were more than 40 boats fishing Gray Rock."
"Amazing fishing in an amazing fishery," smiled IGFA OWC tournament director Mike Myatt. "If the fish remain out there it could be any team's tournament to win."
Each catch-and-release of a marlin (blue, black and striped) or a swordfish equals 300 points. Sailfish count for 100 points. The billfish, all caught on circle hooks, are scored and released alive at the boat in accordance with IGFA tournament rules.
IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser said, "The IGFA Offshore Championship proves that you can have a prestigious and competitive tournament without killing billfish. Our mandatory use of circle hooks, with natural baits, demonstrates that they are beneficial to fish and angler alike. As evidenced by the number of fish caught in our tournament."
A total of 118 striped marlin and two sailfish were released on Wednesday.
Most of the anglers experienced rough seas, mild temps of 90 degrees and light winds.
The top male angler after three days with 3,000 points is Dario Marijan with the Croatia team. Randy Towe of the Miami Swordfish team has 2,700 points. Leading the women is Joan Vandergriff of the IWFA Billfish Tournament team with 1,200 points.
The top boat captains after three days are Julio Gonzales on the Bill Collector of the Pisces Fleet at 4,300 points, and Victor Sandes on the Dream of the Picante Fleet with 3900 points. Seven boats are tied for third at 2700 points.
The final results of the four-day event will be made on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.
Countries and territories represented include teams from Angola, Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Grenada, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Spain, Sultanate of Oman, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, the United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela. Many of the teams in the ninth annual tournament will be represented by anglers from a number of additional countries.
The teams previously qualified by winning one of 130 IGFA sanctioned tournaments held in 38 countries worldwide during 2007. Each team fishes from four different boats captained by local Cabo guides. The teams also receive "weight" points (per pound) over 25 pounds for tuna, wahoo and dorado. Local charities receive the donations of all fish weighed at the Cabo docks.
The top team wins engraved watches along with trophies and merchandise. Awards are presented through to the third place finishing team.
Partners and sponsors for the IGFA Offshore World Championship are Secretaria de Turismo de Baja California Sur, Costa Del Mar, Hotel Finisterra, Guy Harvey Inc., Shimano, Picante Sport Fishing and Yacht Sales, Cabo Yachts, K D & G Sea Life Masterpieces, Hook & Tackle, Momoi Hi-Catch, Murray Products, AFTCO BlueWater, Bodo Muche, Minerva's Baja Tackle, Señor Greenberg's, IWS Scales, King Sailfish Mounts, Pompanette, Pisces Sportfishing, Corona and Modelo S.A DE C.V. Mexico, Don Tyson, Trans Cabo, Eagle Claw, MoldCraft Products, Inc. and API Dock.
Daily results of the previous day's round are posted each morning on the IGFA's home page at www.igfa.org . A list of registered teams can also be found on the web site under the fishing tab on the home page by clicking "tournaments."
Founded in 1939 the IGFA is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping. IGFA members are located in over 125 countries and territories. The IGFA welcomes visitors to its 60,000-square-foot interactive Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach, Fla.