Aug. 24, 2002 — With three previous USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament titles to its credit, Lady Lou was the boat to beat this year. And no one could do it.
A total of 12 blue marlin releases this week at the 30th annual event, popularly known as the Boy Scouts Tournament, gave the San Juan entry a four-peat win for Best Boat, successfully defending Lady Lou's 2001 title.
Four marlin releases earned Lady Lou sportfisherman Jose Valdes Jr. the Best Angler award, $10,000 in cash.
His father, Jose Valdes Sr., owner/angler aboard the 61-foot Viking yacht, commented afterward, "It's great. All the marlin — that's what keeps us coming here each year."
A total of 81 anglers fishing off 29 yachts headed out to the North Drop for marlin hunting on Monday, Day 1, when Rum Bum took the lead with three blue marlin released by Jennifer Bacardi.
That day, Lady Lou angler and mate Luis Infanzoa said afterward, "We saw four fish, but only released one," by Valdes Jr. "So, we made some adjustments, some changes in the lures we were using."
Come Day 2, Lady Lou put its new strategy into play. "We headed right for what they call the Cuban Hole and — bang! — we started catching fish," Infanzoa said. "Every half hour, bing, bing, bing!" Angler Raphael Suares scored three of the Lady Lou releases, the same number as Luis Santana aboard Sandy, and Carl Hitch aboard Black and Gold. Suares took the lead by being the first to release three. Infanzoa released two and Valdes Jr. and Sr., one apiece, to give Lady Lou a three-fish lead at day's end.
Three more releases, two by Valdes Jr. and one by Suares, gave Lady Lou an unbeatable 11-fish total on Day 3. Infanzoa commented at the end of that day, "We've broke our own tournament record, and there's still one more day of fishing. We're pumped. There seems to be a lot more fish out there this year."
At the American Yacht Harbor docks that evening, while anglers celebrated and crews hosed down the vessels, the white and blue marlin flags flying signaled a great catching day for the fleet.
On Day 4, Infanzoa had one more release, not that the Lady Lou team needed it for Best Boat honors.
St Croix's Rock-N-Robin placed second, with eight releases. "It was pretty suspenseful," Jason Pruns, captain of the 60-foot Hatteras, said at the end of the final day of fishing. "We were neck and neck with another boat but had them on time. Then we got another one this morning, but they got one after that. Then they hooked up and missed, then we missed one, too."
Ultimately, the other vessel, Black Shadow, with Capt. Chris Turner at the helm, placed third for Best Boat, also with eight released blue marlin.
Behind Valdes Jr., Santana aboard Sandy placed second for Best Angler, and Suares on Lady Lou was third.
Lady Lou also won the Best Crew award, for Capt. Johnny Fulgueira and mates Israel Ruiz and Tito Martinez.
Bacardi triumphed as Best Female Angler.
The fishing proved fantastic over the August full moon, with the 29 boats releasing
a total of 117 blue marlin — an average of four per boat — all on relatively lightweight 50-pound test line that requires adept angling skills.
For the 15th year, no fish were boated, with release points and times determining the winners. Once again, no one could claim the $1 million prize offered annually — and yet to be won — for reeling in the first blue marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds.
Over its three decades, the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament has evolved into one of the world's most competitive saltwater sportfishing events. It's a part of the Bisbee's World Billfish Series and is a qualifier for the Rolex-IGFA Invitational Tournament of Champions.
In the local community, the tournament is best known as a fund-raiser for the Virgin Islands Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Last year, it raised more than $140,000 for the V.I. scouting program. Tournament director Jimmy Loveland said he anticipates a comparable donation this year.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.