Thursday, 18 April 2013

Beautiful Bermuda


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BermudaThe second leg of my offshore odyssey saw me touch down in Bermuda, a small island located in the mid-Atlantic.
My only prior knowledge of Bermuda concerned the Bermuda Triangle, an area infamous for the number of planes and ships that have mysteriously disappeared within it! Whatever had I let myself in for?
Bermuda is a stunningly beautiful and interesting place. Settled in 1609, the island has been continuously inhabited since that date. In the years that followed its discovery, Bermuda has turned itself into a centre for international business and tourism in the mid-Atlantic, as well as earning a reputation for being one of the hotspots for anglers wanting to catch a big Atlantic blue marlin.
I was travelling to Bermuda for several reasons. First, Bonze Lures was sponsoring the Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship series, which comprises three separate events: the Billfish Blast (which is fished to coincide with the Blue Marlin World Cup); the Big Game Classic; and the Sea Horse Anglers Billfish Tournament. The boat with the most points across all three qualifying events takes away line honours for the Triple Crown!
Second, I had been invited to give a seminar at the Bermuda leg of Marlin University, which is instructed by Dave Ferrell, legendary Captain Peter B Wright, and world-renowned wireman, Charles Perry.
Finally, given that Bermuda has won the Blue Marlin World Cup a staggering six times since 2003, I wanted to sample what this mid-Atlantic outpost had to offer.
BermudaThe fishing in Bermuda is largely focused on ‘the edge’ (where the drop-off is along the edge of the island) or Challenger Bank and Argus Bank. The island of Bermuda was formed by natural corals growing on top of an inactive volcano; Challenger and Argus Banks are also volcanic peaks, located off the southwest end of the island. They rise up from the ocean floor, creating a dramatic change in depth, coming up from over 600 fathoms (1100m) to approximately 30 fathoms (55m) of water in a matter of a couple of hundred metres. Each bank has a large area of water that remains at around 30 fathoms, creating a flat plateau, and this is a haven for all types of fish.
While July is normally the hot month for the blue marlin bite in Bermuda, this year the season was running late, and the blue marlin bite was not up to its normal standard. But that’s fishing, and one thing I’ve learned over the years is you have to be on the water to be in with a chance.
My first day in the country was spent on a fun fishing trip with a group of young anglers aboard a 9.5m Eastern.
I was keen to get some of my lures in the water, and it wasn’t long before we had an enthusiastic 11-year-old angler hooked up to a feisty white marlin on Challenger Bank. It was a great way to open our account in Bermuda, and helping these keen young lads have a memorable time on the water was very rewarding.
BermudaOn that trip I also found myself getting a good workout as an angler, pulling on a nice 35kg yellowfin tuna; when that fish hit the deck I knew we were in for some good eating for the next few days.
In between sponsorship duties and catching up with old friends who’d also come to fish in Bermuda, I didn’t have a lot of downtime before finding myself aboard Brent Slade’s Chaos, a 38-foot (12m) Buddy Davis. I’d fished on this boat during the Bermuda Billfish Blast.
The bite didn’t really go our way in the Blast, but we did manage to release another white marlin on a Bonze Trojan, and it was great to be into the swing of tournament fishing again.
It was a real privilege to be in Bermuda on July 4, when Captain Peter Olander brought a fat 768lb (348kg) blue marlin to the scales to win the Blue Marlin World Cup on the Queen of Hearts. This was the second time in five years the Bermuda-based team aboard Queen of Hearts emerged victorious in the worldwide Blue Marlin World Cup. They previously won the World Cup in 2007.
In this unique event, teams from around the globe compete each July 4 for eight hours in their time zone to see who can land the largest blue marlin weighing 500 pounds (227kg) or more. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake.
In between the Billfish Blast and the Big Game Classic, I caught up with North Carolina-based Captain Bull Tolson and was invited to fish on the Sea Toy. This boat is something else! Capable of hitting 50 miles an hour (43.5 knots) wide open, the Sea Toy is a 57-foot (17.4m) fishing machine. (I understand the Sea Toy has made the crossing from Bermuda to North Carolina in less than 20 hours; that’s incredible, given that Bermuda is 600-plus nautical miles off the coast of North Carolina!)
I had a great time aboard Sea Toy, and got to see a Bonze ‘Ballistic’ account for another white marlin, while a Bonze ‘Notorious’ bowled over a solid blue marlin in the 350-400lb (160-180kg) range.
The Bermuda Big Game Classic, the second leg of the Triple Crown, quickly rolled around, and I found myself fishing on Off Piste, a 47-foot (14.3m) Cabo run by local Bermuda captain, Brian Lines.
BermudaDespite the indifferent bite, we worked the waters around Argus Bank for reasonable results. The Bonze ‘Hercules’ did us proud in the Classic, accounting for all our billfish. Better still, we were lucky enough to take out the Day 3 Marlin Release Jackpot, which meant that Off Piste walked away from the prize presentation with a cheque for US$43,600 in prize money – not bad for three days of fishing!
As luck would have it, visiting boat Waste Knot landed a very large fish on a non-tournament day, the big blue tipping the scales at 911lbs (413kg). Regrettably the fish came up dead on arrival, otherwise the Waste Knot team would have released her.
Also on a non-tournament day, the crew on the Sea Toy used a Bonze ‘Violator’ to catch and release a nice 750lb (340kg) blue. Both fish are remarkable captures and another reminder that Bermuda produces some very large blue marlin.
Ahead of the Sea Horse Anglers Billfish Tournament, I managed to slip in another fun fishing day with the team aboard Endeavour, the boat I first fished on in Bermuda. It turned out to be one of those days when the billfish bite did not result in hook-ups.
The Sea Horse Anglers Billfish Tournament is the final leg of the Triple Crown, and for this I was aboard Chaos again with Captain Brent Slade.
The whole team was eager to put some points on the board, but it’s fair to say that it took us a while to find where the marlin were. However, once we did, we managed a white marlin release and a blue marlin release for a total of 700 points on the Bonze ‘Scorpion’.
Then, on the final day of fishing, we hooked a double of blues, but pulled the hooks on both. Big game fishing can have some very cruel moments, but it was a great experience to be part of the Sea Horse Anglers event all the same.
The Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship award went to visiting boat, Fa La Me.
BermudaThe Triple Crown awards consistency across all three qualifying events, and the team on Fa La Me ended up walking away with rods, reels, championship rings, a beautiful trophy and a selection of Bonze custom-made lures that I created especially for that event.
My last ‘official’ duty in Bermuda was to present a seminar as part of the Bermuda leg of Marlin University. Marlin University is an interesting concept. Participants travel to marlin hotspots around the globe to improve their ability to catch marlin. Each day comprises a mix of on-the-water tuition with leading local captains and classroom instruction on various aspects of marlin fishing. My seminar focused on my experiences with selecting, rigging and running different types of lures.
Bermuda has been an exciting experience for me, even though the bite was not up to its usual standard. Every fishery I visit has its special characteristics, and Bermuda is no different. I learned a great deal about the Bermuda style of marlin fishing and had the opportunity to meet a fantastic group of captains and anglers, both Bermuda-based and from the United States. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Full Article:  Fishingnetnz

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