2019 Presidential Aruba Caribbean Cup - 10th Anniversary

October 17-20, 2019
Story by: Evan A. Hipsley, Jr.


22 October 2019

Location: Varadero Marina/Boatyard | The Fish House Island Bar and Restaurant

Oranjestad, Aruba

GeoLoc: 12.4983° N | 70.0172° W

Departing Pensacola, FL outbound for Oranjestad, Aruba takes a little coordination.  For this Observer, a short hop of 45 minutes and about an hour layover to connect in Atlanta, GA then wheels up transitioning to feet wet encompassing just over three hours flight time to wheels down and feet dry at Queen Beatrix International Airport.

October 17-20, 2019 marked the 10th Anniversary of the Presidential Aruba Caribbean Cup – an All Release Trolling Tournament using 30# test line, non-offset circle hooks, and dead baits only. 

17 teams and 14 IGFTO Observers participated for three days in some of the mildest weather and seas I’ve experienced in Aruba the past four years I’ve attended this tournament. It’s not uncommon to have day-long prevailing east winds in the high 20 and 30 knot range producing rather large swells.

The Rules, Observer, Captain/Team Meetings and Kickoff party were held on Thursday evening to set the stage for the fishing that was on tap for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Pre-fishing discussions from several Captains/Teams indicated that an earlier in the week full moon was responsible for a below-average Sailfish bite; the fishing days in the circuitous waters around Aruba would soon connote reality.

We departed our accommodations in downtown Oranjestad each morning at 0600 for a quick shuttle ride to the Fish House for breakfast, paperwork, and any day admin that needed to be disseminated.  Observers reported to their assigned boat for the day following breakfast in time for the fleet underway to the beautiful blue waters.

0700 and it’s underway to the grounds! The “commute”, as I like to call it, is on average 35 minutes (+/-) depending on wind, sea conditions, and the “secret” spots to put lines in, or in other words, where’s the bait?  Lines in was called each day at 0800, and lines out at 1700, with the exception of Sunday where lines out were an hour earlier at 1600 to allow for everyone to return to the marina, file paperwork, and refresh for the Awards Dinner.

Scoring this year was consistent with that in the past. As such, both Blue and White Marlin releases were awarded 400 points, and both Sailfish and Spearfish releases were awarded 100 points. A slam, defined as the release of a Blue, White, and Sailfish/Spearfish garnered an extra 100 points. 

This year, I had the pleasure of observing aboard WATASHEE on Friday, ENERGY on Saturday, and ALINA on Sunday. 

Following three days on the water the top team standings were: ENERGY 2100 points; HEAT 1700 points; and NAIRA 1500 points.

Top Angler accolades went to: Bonny Croes 1200 points on HEAT; Marcelo Hayden 1200 points on ENERGY; and Yilson Iriarte 900 points on NAIRA.

The Fleet released a total of 54 Billfish that included: 17 Blue Marlin, 19 White Marlin, and 18 Sailfish. Nearly half of the 109 Billfish released during 2018's tournament.

Up next: Three Legs and the Ladies Tournament at Los Sueños and the Quepos Pescadora Ladies Tournaments all in Costa Rica. Until then: “Fish on….left long….Blue Marlin | Release, release, release!”

Best, Evan.