The oldest continuously running billfish tournament turns 30 this year — 30-pound-test line, that is. Club Nautico de San Juan’s International Billfish Tournament, which was founded 62 years ago, is changing its rules. The all-release format now requires 30-pound-test line or lighter, down from 50-pound line since 2003. The tournament originally allowed IGFA-maximum 130-pound line at it’s inception in 1953.
“Better boats, specialized crews, better hooks and new technology in fishing gear make light tackle more attractive for anglers, even those who’ve been fishing with heavier line for years,” says Ricky Jaén, chairman of this year’s IBT, which will be held September 24 through 30, 2015.
For the past three years, IBT rules allowed 50-pound line but gave additional points for fish caught on 30-pound line — 230 points for each billfish released on 50, versus 325 points per release on 30. “In the first two years using the 50- 30-line format, around 60 percent of tournament billfish were released on 30-pound line,” Jaén says. “Last year that number rose to 75 percent on 30.”
The IBT is somewhat unique in that individual anglers don’t need a boat to participate. Boats fish with three or four anglers, at least one of whom rotates aboard each day as a guest angler. The $1900 entry fee per guest angler — low by billfish tournament standards — goes toward trophies and a solid week of parties. Modest cash prizes come only from the optional Calcutta.
Boats that prefer not to carry a guest angler can register before the tournament to carry a certified International Game Fish Tournament Observer instead.