The tournament got underway on the Wednesday briefing night at the Lure Restaurant where competitors were treated to a wonderful BBQ Buffet spread and they took in the standard competition rules etc ... Then the Calcutta of the Boats was conducted at the end of the night with the average price per vessel being auctioned for $700. The scene was set for the following day with idyllic tides and a brilliant forecast to look forward to.
No one anticipated that first day of fishing’s weather. It was a millpond and the morning sailpast was easily the most picturesque we’ve seen since the tournament began in 2010. It was picture postcard and Perrin Clarke and Jessie Goetze got the bird’s eye view from above in the GBR helicopter capturing film and photos of the sailpast tradition. They said it was breathtaking and from my vantage of the Dragon Lady vessel I must say exactly the same.
Fishing on Day 1 began at 11am and the fleet were spread from Escape Reef in the north down to the bottom of Linden Bank. The first hour or so went by with no reports until the Hellraiser boat completed a successful tag on a 120lb fish at 12.45pm on Linden Bank. The first fish of a tournament is an important one as the rest of the field now have to surpass this number.
The next call came from Wild Turkey at 2pm on Linden Bank with what they called a 1000lb fish. With quick manoeuverability they were able to set a tag within 15 minutes. However Skipper Dan Pagano called through a disqualified fish and it was later revealed the female angler slipped out of the fighting chair during the battle and had to be assisted by the crew. As with tournament fishing the angler and tackle cannot be assisted or touched in any manner by the crew except for being clipped into the marlin chair. The integrity of the skipper is critical to ensure tournaments are conducted on an even keel.
The only other registered fish on Day 1 came from the Think Big vessel and they completed a tag on a 900lb in quick time with legend Skipper Laurie Wright at the helm and Paul Poulter in the chair up on the Agincourt Reefs. A quiet day overall but the tides were more rosy for the following day.
Day 2 began with a slight 5 knot variable breeze from the north east and the action piped up at 2pm with Hellraiser once again tagging a small 100lb black marlin on Linden Bank. They were definitely the pace setters now.
The hard luck continued for Wild Turkey when they completed tags on a 1200lb fish at 3.20pm and an 850lb fish at 4.40pm on Linden Bank. Once again Skipper Dan Pagano unfortunately disqualified both fish which must have had them tearing their hair out. The first fish was disqualified for angler assistance once again and the second incident saw the reel bird’s nest at one point and the crew had to quickly unravel the mess. They could have been right out in front at this point .... if only !!!
Dragon Lady called through a 250lb lost fish at 4.06pm and C Girl lost a 900lb fish which they hooked at 5.20pm (10 minutes before stop fishing) and fought it right through to sunset at 7pm. Both fish were lost at Linden Bank.
By day’s end Hellraiser was out in front with 2 tags.
Day 3 saw similar conditions and the action really began to fire up. Hellraiser could not do a thing wrong and tagged a 180lb fish at Opal Ridge at 2.03pm. Saltaire followed up shortly with a 350lb model at the same location at 2.43pm. Gorilla called through a 200lb fish at 2.58pm and they were fishing up on Ribbon Reef No. 4. Think Big completed a tag up on Anderson Reef at 3.11pm on a 950lb monster with angler Sharon Poulter in the chair. Finally Wild Turkey had a change of luck and they successfully tagged a 330lb model at 3.21pm at Opal Ridge. Think Big wouldn’t go away and at 4.25pm they called through a tagged fish up on Anderson Reef which would see them join Hellraiser on 3 tags.
However Skipper Laurie Wright was not completely happy with the fight and after viewing footage they deemed the line must have scrapped along the rudder of the boat leaving a scuff mark on the line. Once again as the rules state the tackle or line cannot touch the vessel and he consequently disqualified the fish. Think Big remained on a hot bite and 20 minutes later they completed a legal tag on a 250lb marlin which would now see them join the top of the table.
Unfortunately for Hellraiser they hooked up to another fish 10 seconds after they the ‘stop fishing’ call which they went onto tag. After a day of drama on the water the scene was set for an intriguing final day.
On Day 4 the weather hadn’t changed much at all and the battle was definitely on between Hellraiser and Think Big. To complete a quadruple grand slam Hellraiser nailed a tag at 11.47pm on a 150lb specimen on Linden Bank. This would eventually see them take out 4 days of Daily Champion Angler.
The rest of the day proved to be full of bad luck stories. Wild Turkey’s woes continued with a lost fish on the Bank at 1.23pm. Gorilla however broke the mould and registered success at Anderson Reef at 1.59pm on a 200lb fish. C Girl dropped a fish at 1.53pm at Linden Bank and Dragon Lady also lost 2 fish at 2.59pm and 3.32pm both around 350lb in the same area. Think Big had a brief encounter on a fish at 4.23pm at Opal Ridge but failed to set the tag.
In a final fitting Hellraiser completed the last tag of the tournament at 3.57pm at Linden Bank on a 250lb black which secured the title with the ‘stop fishing’ call at 4.30pm on the final day. They were by far the outstanding boat of the tournament which would be revealed at presentation that evening at the Lure Restaurant.
As it eventuated a delightful night was enjoyed by all and the following awards were presented by our local Mayor, Julia Leu.
Day 1: Peter Zimmerman - Hellraiser
Day 2: Peter Zimmerman - Hellraiser
Day 3: Peter Barry - Hellraiser
Day 4: Peter Barry - Hellraiser
Sharon Poulter - Think Big
Steve Ahlers, Hellraiser
Skipper & Boat Reg Moore skippering the Duyfken vessel
Peter Barry with 3 tagged fish.
The Port Douglas Marlin Challenge crew would sincerely like to thanks the following valued sponsors - Bransfords Tackle, Penn Reels, Nautical Marine Sales, GBR Helicopters, Lure Restaurant, Great Northern Brewing Co, On the Spot Signs, Black Pete Tackle, Costa Sunglasses, Tomy Bahama and Perrin Clarke photography.