Saturday, November 18, 2017 4:21 am Last modified: 5:50 pm

‘Sodium’ Leads Day 1 at 54th July Open Billfish Tournament

Chad Damron of Crystal River, Fla., is in the lead with three released blue marlin aboard Sodium, his 75-foot Weaver. (Credit: Dean Barnes)

A trio of blue marlin releases put Sodium soundly in first place on the scoreboard after the first day of fishing in the 54th July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC). Chad Damron, owner and angler aboard the 75-foot Weaver homeported in Florida, released all three blue marlin and took the lead in the angler category, as well.

“The first one we released was about 500-pounds and put up an hour and a half fight,” said Damron, of Crystal River, Fla. “That was mid-morning. The next two fish were about 150-pounds each, and we released them mid-day and mid-afternoon. We saw two more in the late afternoon but didn’t catch them. Overall, we feel really good about our two-fish lead.”

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Damron is only 12 fish away from earning this year’s new and larger prize: $25,000 cash for catching and releasing 15 blue marlin during the three-day tournament.

Two other boats, Jim Lambert’s 86-foot Merritt, Reel Tight, and Jim Carr’s 72-Merritt, Never Say Never, released a marlin apiece to end the day. They were second and third, respectively, in the boat standings.

Lambert of Hillsboro Beach Inlet, Fla., also earned honors for catching the first fish of the tournament.

It was 15-year-old Zachary “Zac” Murck of Davie, Fla., who released the blue marlin aboard Never Say Never. Murck, who is fishing with his mother, Melissa Murck, and his grandfather, Jim Carr, earned Never Enough the top boat trophy and himself the top angler or prestigious “Give Him Line” award in last year’s JOBT.

Over half dozen boats homeported in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland are competing in this longest annually held angling contest in the V.I.

Lines go in the water on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m. The JOBT will conclude on Saturday.

The public is invited to greet the fleet as the boats come back to the dock around sunset. The number of flags flying on the outriggers indicates how many billfish the boat’s anglers caught and released for the day. The JOBT is a conservation-conscious all-release tournament. No fish will be boated or brought to the dock for weigh-in.

Profits from the VIGFC tournaments, which received 501 C (3) status this year, will benefit the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Marine Vocation Program and local veterans. Tournament sponsorship and donations are tax deductible.

Sponsors include IGY’s American Yacht Harbor; Fish Tails Bar & Grill; Southern Glazer’s Wines & Spirits, distributor of Mount Gay Rum; and Yeti. and Yeti.

For more information or to register, visit www.vigfc.com or call 775-9144.

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