Bayou State anglers prepare for IGFA offshore tourney

This is the month to throw some topwater plugs in your tackle box, and point your bow to a bay where the reefs are fresh and the trout are hungry.

Six Louisiana anglers will be on three of the 64 teams from 33 countries that have qualified to compete in the seventh annual Rolex/International Game Fish Association Offshore Championship Tournament May 7-12. Frank Bonner of Abbeville will be going to the world championship of bluewater fishing as a winning team member of the Third Coast Classic in Port Aransas, Texas, last year.

John Engquist, Ryan Enquist, Carter Fourrier and Todd Waguespack, all of Baton Rouge, will be representing the 25th annual Bluewater Classic held out of Baton Rouge last year.

And on a third team representing the New Orleans Invitational Billfish Tournament will be Mike Parks of Slidell.

The prestigious Rolex/IGFA event is a four-day catch-and-release tournament that takes place in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It’s attracting many of the world’s best angling teams who have won at least one of 110 IGFA qualifying events held in 40 countries around the globe during 2005. They’ll be fishing the waters around the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula for marlin and other big-game fish.

The Rolex/IGFA tourney attracts the largest number of international teams to compete in a single fishing tournament.

To date, teams signed up represent the countries and territories of Angola, Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, the Canary Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Galapagos, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kingdom of Tonga, Mauritius, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos, United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

Many other countries are represented with anglers coming from France, England, Ireland, Slovenia and South Africa. The United States is represented by 22 teams of anglers from 23 states.

According to Lynda Wilson, Rolex/IGFA offshore tournament coordinator, the abundance of billfish each year caught and released is an important factor in the large number of teams competing annually.

“Last year, a record 517 billfish were caught and released among 70 teams. The year before, 299 billfish were released among 66 teams,” she said. “In 2003, 250 billfish were released among 42 teams.

“Those are some excellent release figures, and the anglers remember and get excited and the word spreads about the great fishing there in Cabo.”

The teams will draw for different boats each day from the local guided Cabo fleet. They will be fishing for three species of marlin (blue, black and striped) and swordfish for 300 points each along with sailfish and spearfish for 100 point values each. The catches will be scored and released alive at the boat in accordance with the IGFA tournament rules.

The team releasing the most billfish over the four days will receive bonus points.

The teams will also receive points (per pound) for tuna, wahoo and dorado up to two fish of each species per day above the minimum size limit of 25 pounds. Local charities receive the donations of all fish weighed at the Cabo docks. All anglers will use 30-pound Momoi fishing line.

The team with the most points at the end of the four days of competition will receive Rolex timepieces and trophies. Eighteen other prizes will be presented including ones to the three top male and female anglers, top three captains and top three places for the heaviest tuna, wahoo and dorado.

The offshore championship is one of two world-class series fishing events that include the sixth annual Rolex/IGFA Inshore Championship Tournament to be held July 9-12 in the Florida Keys. In that tournament, some 40 anglers representing 55 qualifying tournaments on four continents will be competing in light-tackle and fly-fishing competition for bonefish, tarpon, permit, redfish and snook in Islamorada, located in the middle of the Florida Keys.

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