Winner Winner, Fish Dinner

Resident fishing expert and Oceania business development manager Chris Gibbs gives us his angle on the highs, lows and “oh nos” of his recent trip to the Anglers Eldorado Billfish Tournament in the Bay of Islands.

The Oceanmax team fished in the Eldorado Billfish Tournament aboard X-hale, a 60-foot Riviera

The Oceanmax team fished in the Eldorado Billfish Tournament aboard X-hale, a 60-foot Riviera

I’m back in the office after a phenomenal week sponsoring, emceeing and fishing in the Anglers Eldorado International Billfish Tournament in the beautiful Bay of Islands, New Zealand, and what a brilliant tournament it was! Some of the country’s top game boats made up the highly competitive fleet, spread far and wide over a large fishing area in pursuit of a $50,000 cash prize for the biggest marlin over 300kg. The Oceanmax team was blessed to be on board X-hale, a well-outfitted 60-foot Riviera that would be our home away from home for the next four days.


The forecast was in our favor, with light winds and calm seas. Day 1 delivered amazing conditions, though somewhat slow fishing. Across the field, three fish were tagged and released: a blue marlin and two striped marlin, one of these by the Oceanmax team. A blue marlin weighed in at a nice 192kg, and a New Zealand record 25.1kg shortbill was also landed but unfortunately disqualified.


Nonstop fishing until the final day saw teams fishing for broadbill swordfish all night. Team St Moritz managed to tag two, putting them in the lead by sunrise of day 2—but not for long. The Oceanmax team hooked up at 6am, boating a nice blue marlin by 7am and tagging a striped marlin just two hours later, putting us in front. That day was quiet for pretty much everyone but us, with only four fish total, but our “big blue” weighed in at a healthy 230kg, winning us the prize for heaviest fish but missing the 300kg mark and, sadly, the $50,000 prize.


Day 3 was yet another beautiful day, with no more than 5 knots of breeze for the third day straight. But our good luck seemed to run out, allowing other boats to close the gap, with one blue marlin weighing 209kg and three tag-and-releases: a shortbill, a striped marlin and a mako shark.


The final day, we were full of nerves, leading by only one fish. It looked like this was going to be the day for the fish to bite, and it wasn’t long before boats started calling in hook-ups. A T/R striped marlin and blue marlin meant that two teams were nipping at our heels. Then, all of a sudden, the short corner started screaming and a huge blue marlin greyhounded at the boat but came unstuck during its aerial display. Bugger! More calls of hook-ups came through but, like ours, failed to stick—except one, aboard Family Jewels, who already had two T/R striped marlin. Our nerves set in even worse knowing that the boat and its skipper were more than capable of pulling off this big blue marlin on 15kg line. An hour before stop fishing and four hours into the mammoth fight, the call came through from Family Jewels: They had broken the fish off.


The X-hale crew was left with mixed emotions, as this would have netted the $50,000 prize and been an awesome feat for 15kg line. On the other hand, we had now officially won the 2018 Anglers Eldorado International Billfish Tournament!


Once back at the dock, a couple of celebration rums were had with the team and Miss Billfish before I put on my MC hat for the prize giving. What a fantastic tournament with great people in a beautiful location.


For more on the experience, watch our video diary below.

By Chris Gibbs

Blog post published 31 January 2018

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