Successful billfish-tournament fishermen will tell you that you aren't going to snag the big, 700-pound, calcutta-winning marlin every event. Savvy tournament anglers, however, know that all is not lost. Striking out on quarter-ton-plus marlin doesn't mean that there is no joy in Mudville. When you can't hit the home run, it's time to practice the piscatorial version of small ball.
Small ball is the time-honored baseball strategy of winning ballgames one run at a time. Batters go for easy singles and doubles, stealing bases, putting runners in scoring position and then bringing them in with more singles. The key is to put points on the scoreboard. If a hitter's pitch comes along and he can clear the bases with one swing of the bat, that's fine too. The home run is just a kicker, though; the other runs are the ones that lead to the win.
Capt. Terry Stansel adopted a similar strategy during the 2004 billfish-tournament season when he captained the Hatteras 60C Hatterascal. Because they were aboard a factory-demo boat, Stansel, the crew and team didn't enter the calcuttas, which paid off for the largest blue marlin. Not having to look for Mr. Big meant that Hatterascal could change the game plan when fishing in events such as the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, North Carolina, or the Bertram-Hatteras Shootout in Abaco, Bahamas, by targeting quantity.
"The points systems in these tournaments meant we could go for catch-and-release points," says Stansel, who is now a company captain with American Custom Yachts. "We downsized our tackle and started going after high-quantity species like sailfish and white marlin, along with smaller (150- to 200-pound) blues. You could pile up a lot of points that way."