For the most part, last week’s NT Billfish Classic was a success.
Hosted by Darwin Game Fishing Club, there were 17 billfish tagged and released, including seven black marlin.
However, it was tough going thanks to turbulent sea conditions.
According to Darwin Game’s Bruce Simpson: “The majority of teams elected to fish the waters of Dundee, trying to take advantage of past knowledge from this year through various competition weekends and also previous Billfish Classics.
“But it was fair to say each team had to think outside of the box in order to find suitable water holding bait and fish.
“Teams had to deal with a persistent westerly wind for the three days and, although uncomfortable at times, it at least kept the conditions constant, with afternoons proving calm enough to be back at the ramp before sunset,” Bruce explained.
“Most fish came on the change of the high tide in the morning and throughout the falling tide; afternoons proved a little trickier as the dirty water took time to clear with the push in of the tide making it harder to bring fish into the spread.
“Mackerel proved thick on the grounds and swimming baits didn’t last long with aerial attacks hitting baits at great speed. While spectacular to watch, for many teams it meant rigging baits as they went.
“The conditions with some wind chop continued the theme of small black marlin being common in the trolling spreads, with some as small as 100cm and as big as 140cm and up to 20kg in size across the seven caught.
“Sailfish accounted for 10 of the 17 fish and did hold good size to 25kg in some cases.
“Teams had to choose between finding clean water further out with limited bait and fish or come inside to dirtier water full of bait and then hope fish showed.
“There was no clear winner in the strategies with location or with preference of baits over lures, so to the teams who did tag fish, they certainly did well to raise and hook their fish and deserve the results they earnt,” Bruce said.
Long-time Darwin Game Fishing Club stalwart, Josh Ker, said: “A few teams headed up top to the Tiwis and, whilst the trip up there was fantastic, conditions soured very quickly on the first morning with a strong westerly wind blowing 24 hours a day.
“The seas increased to 2-3m, only a few seconds apart, and with constant whitecaps on top. A bit of north-west swell mixed with a south-west swell created some at times scary peaks in the swell.
“The water colour however was fantastic: a deep rich blue that was crystal clear.
“The problem though was that it seemed to be devoid of life: no birds, no tuna and importantly no bait,” Josh explained.
“We managed to raise a couple of marlin between 20kg and 60kg but for some reason they were very lazy, not lit up and difficult to tempt to eat our baits.
“Other teams had their shots on both sails and marlin but no fish were recorded west of the Tiwis.
“Coming back through the gutters on the way home, the birdlife and tuna activity increased somewhat and, whilst encouraging, unfortunately did not produce any results,” Josh said.
Champion Team: Bridget Rootsey and Kurt Williamson in Team Billissimo (1 marlin, 2 sailfish – 3000 points)
Runner-up To 7.5m: Brian Bates, Alex Bates, Aaron Rouse in Team Follow The Teaser (1 marlin, 1 sailfish 2175 points)
Runner-up Over 7.5m: Doug Saunders, Mick Carey, Ken Roderick and Tom Bix in Team MEG II (1 marlin, 2 sailfish – 2550 points)
Champion Angler: Bridget Rootsey (1 marlin, 2 sailfish – 3000 points)
Most Meritorious: Brian Bates – marlin on 15kg
Mat Farmer (left) and Martin Burnup with Mat’s tagged sailfish about to be released.
Jordan Conrad helps Ben McLean with his terrific sailfish.
Pictured here with one of her two sailfish, ever-consistent Bridget Rootsey was Champion Angler once again in the NT Billfish Classic.