Everybody has a “place”, for me it has to be Lobito, in Angola. There is just something magical about the place. I don’t know if its the name, the scenery or perhaps it is because it is without a doubt the best billfishing destination in Africa!! For the past 10 years Lobito has hosted its now famous Lobito Big Game Tournament. I have been fortunate enough to have taken part in some of these tournaments, with mixed results.

In 2009, we hooked 8 blue marlin, one of which was a grander, and never scored a point.

In 2011, a tiny impeller cost us the tournament and saw us arrive late for the weigh-in with a total of 5 sailfish, tagged and released, which was the most fish in a single day in any tournament in Angola (at that time we were the first team to practice bait and switch in Angola). We came back strong and managed to place second.

2012, I had fishing clients and was unable to compete and my team won – maybe I am the Jonah? Up until 2012 I had the honour of fishing with the greatest teachers, gentlemen and all round nice guys- Dr Iain Nicholson and his brother Cam, on the Marlinheiros team.

2014 was my debut as a Captain in the tournament. By now the other Angolan teams had fished the World Champs in Costa Rica and Mexico and had improved their methods and adapted to suit them to their local waters. Amongst the fleet we had the FIPs-M World Champions, the IGFA World Champions and five of the top ten anglers in the world!!! Quite a line up. We arrived with our tiny 28ft Butt Cat with high expectations but knowing that we were fishing amongst the best. Practice days saw us attempt to establish our rhythm and master our techniques- as we had never fished as a team and were trying something entirely new- swimming baits for sailfish as the days of bait and switch were over. The first day of the comp, everything came together and we ended up with 11 sailfish caught. We lost some points at the jury due to videos and ended up tied first. Second day was disaster for us and from there on it was all downhill. I wanted a top ten finish, we managed seventh so I was sort of happy with it but I know we could have done a lot better. We ended up with 28 sailfish for the competition, with a total of 480 billfish caught amongst 40 boats in 4 days fishing.

2015 saw me fish with a new team. Due to charters we only had one practice day. Fishing was slow for us but we managed to find a small pocket of fish as we were about to up lines which gave us confidence for the first day. After the binimy start majority of the boats headed north, we however (along with a few others) decided to make our way south. We just set out our full spread and in come a sailfish – 1 from 1. in these competitions full points are rewarded for fish which are tagged and released. As we tagged the first fish, the tag stick broke, so no tag = half points! With the spread out we immediately raised 2 and hooked 2. Now we had to make a plan to tag! A bit of improvisation with a leatherman and a piece of wire saw us tagging those two fish but our adapted tag stick cost us valuable time as we had to bill each fish. A quick call over the radio to Iain resulted in a new tag stick. The day carried on in a blur, making baits, tagging, releasing, shouting, high-fifing, more shouting, more high-fives and so it went on until lines up. The last half an hour saw us fighting hard to land just one more fish, which unfortunately did not join the cause. We ended the day with 19 from 26, setting a new daily Angolan record. By far my most special offshore tournament day.

Lobito 19

The rest of the competition did not go so well for us and we managed to place fifth, however day 1 made it all worth our while. A staggering 993 billfish were caught over a period of 4 days by 40 boats. All fish were tagged and released, besides the 6 which died during fighting or for world record purposes.

Lobito Prize Giving.jpg

Due to a busy charter schedule we were unfortunately not able to fish Lobito in 2016 but you never know what the future or the deep blue holds! Lobito will forever remain one of my favourites.

Lady luck?

The morning of the 11th of April 2015 began just like any other morning, waking up to the sound of the ocean lapping the shore and the cat meowing for food. Carlos and I were in a bittersweet mood- happy to be heading back to South Africa, for a week or two, to see family and friends but sad to leave our home and our kitten. It was about lunch time, whilst packing our bags, when we heard Rod Haestier shouting frantically for assistance. Carlos poked his head out our door to see what all the commotion was about… only to find Rod with a buckling rod and near empty reel attempting to get his camera out of his room. Carlos then began bellowing. I ran out only to get shouted at and sent back to get my rod. A massive, shimmering bait ball had gathered on our doorstep and was getting smashed by a shoal of leeries.

I raced down to the beach, and started trembling with excitement. My first cast was nothing other than a total disaster, it was as if I had two left hands! I managed to land my plug nowhere near the bait ball that was stretched out for at least 50m in front of me. A little story on the side, whilst learning to cast properly the only way I got my rhythm was by singing to myself (Lana del Rey was the hit!). I knew I had to get my nerves in check so I reeled like crazy, took a deep break and started singing. From here on, everything happened in slow motion… my plug flew perfectly landing just behind the bait ball. Few quick winds and my ‘Flamingo Special’ plug was skipping along happily. The next moment a massive bow wave started coming from behind, then the biggest explosion I had ever seen. This repeated itself over and over as the leerie was so aggressive he couldn’t get the plug in his mouth (or I had stopped singing, lost focus and was winding like a crazy person!!). Just as I thought I was running out of water my plug disappeared into a massive mouth, not even 15m from my feet. My rod jerked, my Stella started screaming and just like that I was on!

Meanwhile, Carlos had managed to land Rod’s fish. After a few quick photos, the leerie of about 20kg was returned to the sea. Now all of a sudden I had a lot of ‘expert advice’. The fight lasted for about 20min. The flat, clear waters and my new set of Costas made it possible for me to see the fish for the entire fight- something thats etched into my brain forever! After a few tense moments, Carlos managed to tail the fish. Only when he picked it up and passed it into my trembling arms did I realise what a beauty I had just landed. Once the moment had been captured, I waded waist deep into the water, held her until she was ready to kick off. Feeling the fish kick out of my hands and seeing her swim off strongly was even more satisfying than catching her!

Chenelle leerie.jpg

As our fisheries are under immense pressure all over the globe (even in a remote area like Angola) it is very important that we all do our part. Every fish released helps the cause, especially those big breeding females.

Quick tip: always have a camera ready before you land your fish as it wastes valuable time fetching it once the fish has hit the beach. Fighting a big fish takes a lot out of it and every second spent out of the water reduces the chance of a successful release!