The International Billfish Tournament, the longest consecutively held international billfish tournament in the world


September 15, 2011


San Juan, Puerto Rico – The statistics are impressive! A total of 185 anglers from 12 countries fishing aboard 51 boats released 84 blue marlins in Club Nautico de San Juan’s 58th International Billfish Tournament (IBT), held September 4-9, 2011.

“The turn-out of anglers, boats and fish was incredible this year,” says Frankie Mirandés, chairman of the 58th IBT.

Mayte won the Top Boat trophy with six releases. For the owner of the 60-foot Hatteras, Jose Cestero, it was awesome. “We released two blue marlin the first day, one the second and three the last fishing day. The last 15 minutes of the tournament were tough. As soon as we knew we won, we started jumping up and down and turned up the music!” said the angler.

Peje and Sea Born finished second and third, respectively, each with five releases.

The Best Angler Overall and Top Local Angler trophies went to Juan B. Soto Balbas who released four blue marlin. “I’m very happy. I’ve fished this tournament for 20 years and never won,” says Puerto Rico’s Soto Balbas, who fished on a 52-foot Hatteras, Bimba. “Luck, knowing how to fight a marlin, to have patience and not lose your cool, was the secret to my success.” Puerto Rico’s Hector Rodriguez Blazquez and Juan Somoza finished as second and third local anglers.

Scotland’s Trevor Somny won Best International Angler with three releases on Sea Born, followed by Australian anglers, Eric Visser and Tim Gillingham, each with two releases (second and third positions, respectively).

“We will be back next year,” says Somny, who fished with his future son-in-law, Malcolm MacDonald.

Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Lebron, angling aboard a 54-foot Bertram, Tati-Way, earned Best Female Angler with one marlin release. Other five lady anglers release one marlin, each! “I caught it in the morning of the first day of the tournament,” says Lebron, an experienced angler who has won top lady prizes in other tournaments. “I fish few tournaments, but I ofter fish throughout the year. I enjoy it.”

The IBT is a well-orchestrated fishing competition that boasts nightly parties, a spectacular boat parade, special Ladies Program, a Shoot-Out start past the famous El Morro Castle, honorary jet fly-over welcoming the fleet back to shore and a tournament finale Gala Awards Banquet.

New this year, the IBT served as the launch tournament for the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) year-long Great Marlin Race. Club Náutico de San Juan members sponsored 10 pop-up archival satellite tags valued at $4,000 each and deployed seven during the tournament. The remaining pop-up tags will be deployed in upcoming weeks.

Pop-up tags are designed to ‘pop-off’ from the marlin four months after being placed. They float to the surface, and provide researchers with a wealth of migratory data picked up via ARGOS satellites. The pop-up tag that surfaces furthest from where it was deployed will win the IGFA Race, earning that angler a free entry into the 2012 IBT and recognition by IGFA. This is just one way the world’s longest consecutively-held big game fishing tournament is doing to promote billfish conservation.

IGFA Conservation Director, Jason Schratwieser, who co-directs the Great Marlin Race with Stanford University’s, Dr. Randy Kuchevar, says, “Seven tags were placed in marlin during the tournament and I have no doubt the avid anglers here in Puerto Rico will place the remaining three in the next week. This program is the perfect opportunity to marry angler passion and science.”

Club Nautico de San Juan received a special honor from The Billfish Foundation (TBF), explains Elliot Stark, science and policy specialist. “We came down to present the Club with a plaque for TBF’s 25th Anniversary. The Club played an integral role in the founding of the foundation back in 1986.”

“Expect the tradition to continue next year,” invites Mirandés, who hands over the reins to Miguel Donato, who will chair the 59th IBT.

The IBT is a qualifier event for the prestigious Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championship that takes place each May.

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Contact For Media:
Virginia de los Reyes
Tel.: 787-409-8465
Club Náutico (787) 722-0177