July Open Tournament
Puerto Rican Defends Top Angler Trophy

St. Thomas, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – JULY 3, 1998 – Eighteen boats and 57 anglers from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico gathered under cloudy skies for the first of three days of Off-Shore Division fishing in the 35th annual July Open Tournament hosted by the St. Thomas-based Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC). Usually contested on larger boats who venture onto the waters of the British Virgin Island’s North Drop, Off-Shore Division anglers vie for the “Big Five” — blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, wahoo and tuna.

Saturday morning marks the start of the two-day competition among six St.  Thomas-based In-Shore Division boats — Rampage, Lady Marie, Catch’n Keep, Grady White, Patty’s Permission and Fingertite – competing for a new YAMAHA 40 HP engine grand prize sponsored by Offshore Marine Services, Inc., distributor for YAMAHA Outboard Motors. Winners in this division are recognized for catching the most weight of any specie – except billfish, sharks and barracuda under 30 inches. Prizes are awarded for Best Boat,  Best Captain, Most Fish, Most Variety, Largest Fish, Largest Kingfish, Largest Barracuda, Largest Wahoo, Largest Tuna, Largest Dolphin, Youngest Angler, and more. On-Shore Division junior angles ages 15 and under may register for free  on Saturday from Noon until 2:00 PM at the VIGFC clubhouse above the Frigate East Restaurant in Red Hook. Sponsored by Vitel Cellular, the On-Shore Division allows land-based fishing to begin anytime on Sunday, with participants weighing-in their catch between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM dockside at Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina, followed by a cook-out and awards ceremony.

Dedicated to the late Henry “Hoppy” Hampton, the Virgin Islands’ longest running sports fishing tournament is sponsored this year by Chivas Regal, with Miller Lite Beer and Cruzan Rum, distributed by Premier Wines & Spirits, Ltd. of St. Thomas. All tournament social events and weigh-ins are being held dockside at Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina.

Fishing aboard Juan Donastevez, Jr.’s Sea Dream, Puerto Rico’s Umberto Martinez is defending the Give’m Line Trophy won with a 632 pound marlin in 1997. The Give’m Line Trophy — for the July Open Tournament angler who catches the largest blue marlin or tallies the most releases — was conceived by Dr. Lyman Spire, owner of Abigail III, as an annual tribute to Captain Johnny Harms, who is credited with pioneering sport fishing in the Virgin Islands in 1963. Any registered angler who reels in a “Grander” (a  1,000-plus pound blue marlin) can win $20,000.  Unique among Caribbean tournaments in that it includes three divisions — Off-Shore, In-Shore and On-Shore – the VIGFC pioneered the conservation of local game fish resources by banning the use of double hooks in its Off-Shore Division. For its efforts in promoting tag-and-release conservation tactics, the club was recognized last March by The Billfish Foundation (TBF) as the winner of the TBF’s inaugural Club Conservation Challenge, scoring highest with 207 tags among 16 clubs worldwide that reported tagging a total of 367 billfish.