The 2015 Master Anglers Billfish Tournament(MABT) saw the team of Kea Kai skippered by Jock Albright and comprised of Charlie Albright (Cousin Rods), Bill Buchanan (Cousin Rods), Dave Elm (AFTCO), and myself getting on the boat Wednesday night with good information on fish up at Anacapa Island and traveling all night arriving at daybreak. Within an hour of our arrival we started to see life up in the area that was the tell tale signs that what we were looking for was in the vicinity, Striped Marlin. The first day of prefish started with seeing a sleeper or two but ended up with the fish loving the Moldcraft Daisy Chains and eating the drop back baits. We ended up with a couple fish on 30 lb and a really good idea where to start the day of the first morning of the tournament. The bite inside Anacapa and the Channel Islands is not all that big so the more boat traffic would make it more difficult to find and get the fish to bite. The prefish day we saw maybe 6 to 8 boats in prefishing with incredible action. The first day of the 2015 MABT we saw the boat traffic slowly went up through the morning into the afternoon to about 40 to 50 boats which put a crimp on the fishing and gave everyone an even chance to catch.
There are a lot of talented fishermen in the marlin fleet and the addition of light line took the difficulty level up a couple notches with guys fishing IGFA 12 lb, 16 lb, and 20 lb mono. We got a shot with the fish in the jigs on the second day where we hooked and landed a marlin on 12 lb in 14 minutes, the result of a seasoned team working together flawlessly all knowing their jobs and getting them done. The end of the first day saw several boats with marlin caught on 12 lb mono as well as quite a few on 16 and 20 lb mono. At this point its anybody’s game with the scoring system on points depending on what size line you catch the fish on. A fish on 12 lb is worth 240 points then so on as the monofilament is heavier in rating. Unfortunately for us the amount of boats in the area scattered the fish in a bigger area and those boats in the right place caught multiple marlin on light line and score the points. We spent the night in Oxnard harbor and review notes with others that we knew fishing in the tournament. The second day of the 2015 MABT we were welcomed with a few sleepers around the boat prior to lines in so we had to wait, which marlin fishing refer to as “Hatching Fish”. In layman terms keeping them within sight until they announce lines in at 6:30 am. We had our fish sink out of sight prior to the start of the day but heard others being more fortunate and catching a few around the flight. We fished right in front of Anacapa most of the day seeing fish in the jigs, a few feeders, and sleepers in the afternoon. We could not get any of the fish to eat so our 2nd day was frustrating but all part of the game. The 2015 MABT saw 54 fish caught and released with close to double that number in bites. Top boat had 8 or so fish which is some of the best fishing I have every heard of in this tournament.
Every year I look forward to this tournament to share the common interest of the hunt for marlin. People think it’s just trolling jigs but there is a lot more to that in regards to intel before the tourney, proper tackle rigging, the right lures, and skilled anglers knowing how to cast as well as drop back baits on marlin in the jigs. If you have not experienced being on a boat with a good team of guys knowing how to do it, you need to find a way to fish with seasoned vets.
Until next year, I hope everyone gets the opportunity to catch and release a marlin. It’s a thrill of a lifetime.