by Bob Wonders
A record 80-boat field gathered for the annual Port Stephens (90 miles north of Sydney) Luhrs Billfish Shootout.
’’Reel Lady’’, a stylish 30 Luhrs Open, returns to the dock.
Big money was on offer with Luhrs Australasian distributor, BlueWater Power Yachts providing $10,000 for the champion Tag and Release team while the Isuzu Heaviest Marlin prize jackpotted to $20,000 as no fish reached the minimum 150kg to claim last year’s $10,000.
Heavy tackle was certainly out and the boats headed wide off Port Stephens ‘loaded for bear.’
In the opening days, fishing was inconsistent with some boats struggling to find even a couple of fish a day.
Many areas along the continental shelf has patches of fish, but things began to change by the first ‘sked’ on day two with Captain Tim Dean at the helm of ‘C\calypso’ away to a flying start.
The 2011 Luhrs Billfish Shootout Champion Junior Angler, Connor Craven with (left to right) David Finns, skipepr Captain Bill Billson and proud father Glenn Craven.
He tagged and released two fish within the hour, while others nearby also tasted success, including talented junior Connor Craven aboard Captain Bill Billson’s ‘Viking II’ and ‘Born Free’, skippered by Geoff Leonard.
By day’s end, it was ‘Calypso’ that had the lead with eight tags including a’ grand slam’ followed by ‘Viking II’ with six tagged.
Only a couple fish were captured with one blue marlin making the minimum weight by 9.5kg, however this fish was subsequently disqualified due to a leader being over length.
Team 'Calypso' after another 'tough day at the office.'
It proved to be an expensive mistake as it would have won the $20,000 Isuzu award for Heaviest Marlin.
It’s a safe bet this crew will be paying much closer attention to the various equipment rules in future tournaments.
The second day of the tournament was near perfect as the fleet headed out.
Within the first two-hours, many boats were hooked up, but as the tags were called through many other vessels converged in the area making it difficult to fight a fish.
'Calypso' team wins Champiojn Tag and Release at the Luhrs Billfish Shootout - left to right, Captain Tim Dean, Luhrs' Tony Poole, Barry Fogg, Gary Ward (seated), Jye Clayden and Judd Westling.
‘Calypso’ took advantage of its lead by adding another two tags while the battle for minor places saw a charge from behind by several boats, among them Greg Plunkett’s ‘Lone Wolf’ and Craig Frith’s ‘Frito 1’.
‘Lone Wolf’ had a great day tagging and releasing six and ‘Frito 1’ with seven.
‘Born Free’, in third place after day one, managed a double header on 15kg and released both successfully to keep up with the leaders.
With the Isuzu $20,000 still up for grabs after lunch on the Sunday, it soon became apparent that many boats were chasing the money (who’d blame them?).
Looking like a winner and $20,000 richer was Mark Foy after taking the Isuzu Heaviest Marlin form the boat 'Seaka.'
In the end, lucky angler Mark Foy, fishing from ‘Seaka’, skippered by Geoff Thompson, who was able to claim the money with a fine 157kg blue marlin.
However, it was consistent and skilful Captain Tim Dean who won through and clinched a well-deserved victory for the crew aboard ‘Calypso’ to claim the champion Tag and Release boat and the BlueWater Power Yachts $10,000.
The tournament had prizes paid back to 10th place, with ‘Frito 1’ (eight tags), ‘Viking II ‘(seven tags), ‘Born Free’, ‘Lone Wolf’, ‘Gunrunner’, ‘Chianti’, ‘No Moor’ and ‘Gametime’ sharing a combination of cash and prizes from Club Marine Insurance, Zacatak Lures, Costa and Flying Fisherman Sunglasses, Mavericks on the Bay and Eastern Creek Raceway.
Connor Craven was named Champion Junior Male Angler for his efforts aboard ‘Viking II’ with the talented and consistent Kiera McMahon, fishing from Captain Jason Lee’s ‘Gunrunner’ was named champion Junior Female.
The Peter Goadby Encouragement Award went to ‘Game Plan’, a well-presented trailer boat that entered the tournament from Mooloolaba, on the Queensland Sunshine Coast.
With entries limited because of space at the bay, more than 40 would-be entrants missed out; the 2010 Luhrs Billfish Tournament is certain to attract another record field.
The 2012 tournament is set for February 18-19.
For information contact the Newcastle Port Stephens Game Fishing Club, telephone (02) 4981-0021 or visit the website.
'Reel Lady', a stylish 30 Luhrs Open, returns to the dock.
Newcastle Port Stephens GameFishing Club website