From a fish eye perspective, the small volcanic island that we know as Grenada rises dramatically almost 3 kilometres from the deep ocean floor. Its shores are massaged by the Caribbean Sea along the west coast and pounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east. An abundance of coral reefs and shoals harbour myriads of small fish around the coastline, which in turn attract the larger pelagic (“ocean roaming”) predators such as the acrobatic sailfish, mighty yellowfin tuna and the ultimate anglers target – the blue marlin, that can reach weights of over 1000 pounds in these waters. Grenada is almost unique in the southern Caribbean in that the chance of capturing 3 species of billfish in one day (a “Grand Slam”) is a realistic possibility.
Therefore it should come as little surprise that Grenada hosts an annual fishing tournament: the “Spice Island Billfish Tournament” (SIBT), attracting participating boats from most of the southern Caribbean islands as well as Venezuela, USA and beyond. The SIBT has been held more or less every January since 1964 and for many years has been based at the Grenada Yacht Club, St George’s.
It all started with Jim Needham of the “Flamboyant Hotel”. He lived to fish and loved to venture along the coastline of Grenada in his little open boat (14’) “Mambo” where he raised and caught dozens of Billfish. He just had to share this love with someone and so in 1964 he called his friend Louis Rostant (Trinidad) and they met in Grenada with Martin Mathias (owner of a beautiful Sports Fishing Vessel – “Bahari”), to formulate and stage the first ever Grenada Fishing Tournament. Sadly, no records are available but we do know that less than 10 boats (Grenada and Trinidad) participated in what was essentially a gentleman’s Tournament. No formal rules were in effect at the time.
However, Jim & Louis worked steadfastly to refine the organisation and adapted International Game Fishing Association rules to suit the Grenada event. These men worked hard at attracting visitors and Anglers alike to participate in the annual event. Almost immediately, the numbers of Anglers increased with boats from all the neighbouring islands (Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia, and Martinique). It became then, and indeed to this day, the main contingent of support for our event.
Back then the number and weight of fish brought to the dock determined the winner, and many people would crowd around the weighing scales at the end of the day to see the fish displayed. Times have changed, and now, in the interest of conservation, most billfish are released alive. Each boat gets a camera to photograph the fish in the water and points are awarded based only on the species of billfish, not the size. Only a few of the biggest fish (usually potential record breakers) are retained and weighed for points.
Held over 4 days, The Spice Island Billfish Tournament has attracted 50 boats or more since 2010 (many of them multi million dollar palaces) and over 240 anglers which completely take over the yacht club’s dock for the duration. The first day commences with a parade through the Carenage to the Bimini start, where all the boats line up just outside St George’s harbour and then race off at the sound of a cannon fired from Fort George (the best place to see the start by the way). Although the fishing is intense and competitive, the dockside partying is taken at least as seriously and a good time is had by all. Interested onlookers throng the yacht club around 4.30 every fishing day to see the day’s catch weighed in, although in these conservation- minded times, many more fish are released than are bought in, having first had their photograph taken to record the catch. After 2 days fishing, there is a rest day (lay day) where the crews have time to relax, repair broken tackle and prepare for the final day’s fishing.
SIBT acquired its first ever title sponsor “Budget Marine” in 2011. Since then, the competition has been known as the Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament (BMSIBT). In 2012 a deal was signed to extend this sponsorship through to 2016.
The 2013, 44th Budget Marine Spice Island Billfish Tournament saw another fantastic turnout of 50 boats, 240 anglers, and resulted in 76 releases. The event was held at the Grenada Yacht Club, January 22nd to 26th 2013.
As the first event of the Southern Caribbean Billfish Circuit, the Tournament set a high standard for the other islands to follow! Grenada welcomed anglers from many countries including the Cayman Islands, St. Lucia, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba, USA, UK, India, Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago and from home waters here in Grenada.
Highlights of the fishing were:
Wahoo from Trinidad & Tobago took an early lead with 2 blue marlin releases; Grenada boat ZuZu released 3 sails (including one for junior angler Brian Williams on his birthday – he won top junior angler for it) to be 2nd as did Exile (Aruba) who were 3rd. Go up D Road from Trinidad and Tobago started their campaign to win the boat pool (weight of fish bought to the scale) by boating 2 large Yellowfin tuna and a dorado.
Daily Total: 11 Blue Marlin, 2 White Marlin and 13 sailfish were released. 7 dolphin, 6 tuna and 3 wahoo landed
Gud Tyme from Trinidad & Tobago had just 4 bites on the 2nd day – they caught and released all 4: a blue, white and 2 sails to take the Grand Slam Prize of a dinghy with outboard motor provided by Budget Marine and Grenadian General Insurance Co. Ltd. This allowed them to take first place from Exile who dropped to 2nd and ZuZu who released 1 sailfish was now 3rd.
Daily Total: 6 blue marlin, 1 white marlin & 18 sailfish, released. Landed: 2 dolphins, 4 tunas and 2 wahoo.
Lots of fish were hooked in the early morning period and almost all of them were lost! Exile kept plugging away and added another sailfish to their tally. Reel Extreme from St Lucia released two blue marlin which gained them 3rd overall. Late in the day, Exile released a white marlin which allowed them to take first place ahead of Gud Tyme who were 2nd.
Daily total: 8 blue Marlin, 5 white marlin & 12 sailfish released. 1 tuna, 3 wahoo & 3 dolphins landed.
Tournament totals: 25 blue marlin, 43 sailfish and 8 white marlin, = total of 76 releases.
ZuZu, captained by Leslie Ramdhanny, was the top performing Grenadian boat with a total of 4 sailfish releases earning 1500 points and 7th place overall. Brian Williams, who also fished on ZuZu, was this year’s Junior Angler Champion.
The ladies were also “in on the action” and Rachel Johnson fishing on Reel Extreme from St. Lucia won Top Female angler releasing a blue marlin ahead of Linda Morris on TT Hemisphere from the Cayman islands who released a sailfish.
The Committee wishes to place on record their thanks and appreciation to all sponsors whose contributions and support made the Tournament possible.
These include firstly, the Title Sponsor Budget Marine Grenada.
Silver Sponsors: Grenada Board of Tourism, Beacon Insurance, Bank of Nova Scotia and Carib Beer
Bronze Sponsors: Camper & Nicholson’s Port Louis Marina, CIBC FirstCaribbean Int’l Bank, and Independence Agencies as well as many other sponsors and supporters including Duty Free Caribbean, Horizon Yacht Charters, Westerhall Estate Ltd., LL Ramdhanny & Co. Ltd., Renwick & Thompson, Grenadian General Insurance Co. Ltd., LIME, and Up In Smoke.
First Place – Exile
Second Place & Grand Slam Winner- Gud Tyme
1st – Exile (Aruba) – 7 releases – 2400 points
2nd – Gud Tyme (T&T) – 5 releases – 2200 points
3rd – Reel Extreme (St. Lucia) – 3 releases – 1800 points
4th – Knot Easy (T&T) – 3 releases – 1600 points
5th -Wahoo (T&T) – 3 releases 1600 points
6th – Southern Cross (T&T) – 3 releases – 1600 points
7th – Zu Zu (Grenada) – 4 releases – 1500 points
8th – Blue Fever (T&T) – 4 releases 1500 points
9th – De Reel Viking (Barbados) – 3 releases 1400 points
10th EZ Axcess (T&T) – 2 releases – 1300 points
Top Junior Angler – Brian Williams, ZuZu (Grenada)
Top Lady Angler – Rachael Johnson, Reel Extreme (St. Lucia)
1st Place Angler: Spencer Scharf on Exile (Aruba) 1500 points
2nd Place Angler: Syam Galbaransingh on Knot Easy (T&T) 1300 points
3rd Place Angler: Darren Mohammed on EZ Axcess (T&T) 1000 points
Grand Slam Boat – Gud Tyme (T&T) won an inflatable dinghy and Tohatsu outboard motor courtesy of Budget Marine and Grenadian General Insurance Co.
Boat pool (weight of fish bought to the scale):
1st place: Go up D Road (T&T) 584 lb
2nd place : Magic Lady (T&T) 237 lb
3rd place: Reel Extreme (St. Lucia) 102 lb
4th place : Iron Lady (T&T) 93 lb
Article by: Gary Clifford, Committee Member, Spice Island Billfish Tournament Committee