Day Four of the tournament proved to be the most exciting of all. Here are the exciting stories from Chris Hepburn Brown, John Leppan, and Willem Skein all crew members of John Graeme , Werner Kotze of Indigo and Hannes Smuts of Bayswater.
First Fish of the Fourth Day by Chris Hepworth Brown (John Graeme)
Wednesday the 15 February was a day I will never forget. We got onto a bumpy sea early and we were all well aware of what we had to do. At the 12-mile bank, the colour of the sea was a deep gunmetal and the temperature was close to 23 degrees C.
After catching some Bonita which we put out as live bait the action started. Just after 8 am out the first line went. It was my turn on the rod and I settled in with a big black marlin. Being my first marlin, this was a daunting fight ahead. The fish jumped early in the fight and then went deep. After 30 min we brought the fish to the side and managed to measure and successfully release
This was probably one of the best experiences I have had. Catching this magnificent fish and then successfully releasing was a moment of extreme joy. I thank our skipper Chris Goatly and the crew for making this possible. Long live the marlin.
A Day I will never forget/ ‘n Dag ek sal nooit vergeet nie – Werner Kotze (Indigo)
Thank you Werner for your very exciting story and for writing in both English and Afrikaans. Ons waardeer dit baie.
Ek kry n uitnodinging vroeër die jaar van Eugene om met hom op die boot Indigo wat deur die legendariese Gawie Bruwer besit en geskip word te kan gaan deelneem aan die TOMT. Die 4e dag se besluit was gemaak, nadat Serge Wessel ons eerste gestreepte Marlyn die vorige dag suskesvol gevang het om weer ver te ry op soek na n suksesstorie.
Radio calls came in of several Marlin being fought and even successfully released from the complete opposite direction from where we found ourselves. Although our water looks great and we lost hours to reach our GPS coordinates, it feels like the Marlin gods have turned yet again against us, could it be true…absolutely not!
Ek draai na Eugene en vra vir hom ; “Het jy dit ook nou gesien?”
Terwyl ons na die “spread” kyk sien ons hoe n Stripey die starboard outrigger slaan en vas is ons. Met die knip van n oog slaan daar nog n Stripey die portside outrigger en dit verander in ‘n malhuis op die boot. Ongelukkig verloor ons altwee visse, maar ons weet ons besluit om ver te hardloop was reg. Vinnig is al die stokke sommer weer in die water en ons bespreek wat moontlik verkeerd kon loop, bad luck is die gevoel en fokus skuif na die mooi water en so paar verdwaalde voëls. Elke persoon op sy pos in afwagting op die volgende strike.
And so it happened – sitting on a beanbag next to the portside outrigger (aka the ugly one) a similar sound to a .22 gunshot broke the silence. The tagline’s elastic band broke off, a Penn International starts screaming insanely and a black Marlin starts jumping and dancing off the stern of Indigo. Teamwork is the key! Clear the rods, clear the deck, get in the chair, and start filming! Twelve years of trying and even losing marlin, I could only think of one thing, ‘DON’T F… THIS ONE UP! ‘
With precision skippering and excellent crew members, we managed to release a beautiful black Marlin that lives to fight another day. The fight and release lasted about 40 minutes, and with Lourens Odendal filming everything, I will always remember 15 February 2023 as a day full of excitement, adrenaline, and conquering my nemesis. Thanks, team Indigo!!!
Third Fish of the Fourth Day by John Leppan (John Graeme)
Having boated the first fish on the 4th day our skipper nominated me to be next in the chair. After locating the bonnies we set about catching two fresh baits and getting them rigged. All the while we were listening to the radio as Indigo had just hooked their second fish. Our job at hand was clear, we needed that third fish!
Fifteen minutes after setting our baits the ratchet on the starboard reel brought us all back into focus. No sooner had it started than it abruptly stopped. As the realisation of this lost opportunity sank in, silence befell the crew. Fortunately, this didn’t last as a portside rig exploded into life and brought us all back to our senses.
Turning off the ratchet to calm the situation we allowed the fish to peel off line whilst I got into the harness. Still not knowing what we were dealing with I tightened up the drag and on cue, a beautiful black marlin surfaced 200 metres off the stern and walked in search of freedom. Having set the hook I then got as comfortable as possible and tried to concentrate on the job at hand.
The John Graeme crew have always been generous with their advice. Knowing that we needed to boat this fish to get back pole position we all set about our jobs working hand in hand with our very able and calm skipper Chris. We tried to subdue a fish that was having none of it. Spending more time in the air than in the water this majestic beast tried every trick in the book to throw the hook. At times I had brief thoughts about being the guy who lost the fish. During this epic battle, and knowing the fleet was listening closely, we finally got hands on the leader and brought the fish alongside. As we were getting ready to bill and measure, the line parted, allowing the fish to swim away strongly back to freedom.
The celebration ensued with high fives all around and with man hugs that could be disturbing in different circumstances!
I would just like to thank the crew and especially our skipper, Chris for his kindness and generosity.
My First Malin by Willem Skein (John Graeme)
As was our usual custom we were taking hourly turns to be on rod duty.
All three of my crewmates had caught their first marlins ever in this tournament. The last two were caught a mere four hours before it was my turn. And the pressure was on to try to catch my first marlin and complete an unthinkable hat trick of three blackies in a day for John Graeme.
As we set out from the harbour earlier that morning for what was to be the last day of fishing, I told Hepburn-Brown confidently that we were going to catch 3 fish today.
At that time we were neck to neck with Indigo, and the competition could still go either way. Everyone on board could sense the tension of the possibility of getting pipped at the post, as had happened to John Graeme two years ago.
The two earlier fish took line around 8h00 and 10h00 respectively.
Shortly after noon I quickly brushed thoughts of doubting my own prediction out of my mind.
At 12h25, my heart rate instantaneously skyrocketed to the urgent sound of my reel’s screaming ratchet.
Excited shouts of, “Come on Doc, your fish is on,” urged me into action.
The fish stripped 200 m of line in no time, entertaining us with several impressive acrobatic aerials.
Thankfully I saw it was not such a heavyweight as my crewmates had to deal with. And by this time our skipper had advanced to the next level of marlin skippering, making me look even better on the rod.
Twenty minutes later a beautiful black was craftily ushered to the side of the boat.
I felt a kind of humble gratitude towards this beautiful fish when I stroked it before it was eloquently released to go and reign the oceans again.
Then the relieving and joyous thought that this fish gave us a likely unsurpassable lead started to descend on all of us.
What a privilege it was to have been part of this incredible crew and to continue the legacy of love for the ocean and fishing.
Last Fish of the Fourth Day by Hannes Smuts (Bayswater)
On Wednesday 15th February 2023 at 14:45 we had the first strike on the boat. Piet called it in and we got extra time. I was the angler on the rod. The fish jumped out of the water at least six times which was the most beautiful site ever! I had it on the line for one hour and forty-five minutes. This was the strongest fish I ever had on a line and probably the biggest! I had the fish right next to the boat and Kokkie was on the leader and according to him, this was at least a 300 kg fish.