The docks will be full next Thursday through Saturday at Georgetown Landing Marina for the 51st annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament. The crowd last May for the 50th annual tournament is shown here. South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series
Why this iconic Grand Strand fishing tournament will have its hands full this year
By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News
May 18, 2018 05:11 PM
A year after the big one – the 50th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament – this venerable tournament heads into its next half-century.
Of course, for a tournament that is the oldest billfish tournament in the state of South Carolina and one of the oldest along the East Coast, they all are big ones.
Ironically, the field of boats competing in the 51st annual tournament, which is set for fishing next Thursday through Saturday (May 24-26) out of Georgetown Landing Marina, will likely be larger than last year’s historic event.
A year ago, unfavorable weather put a damper on the number of boats competing and the field wound up at 44 boats.
After the number of boats in last week’s South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series opener at Bohicket Marina was up, the trend is continuing for Georgetown.
“I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to put 57 boats,” Ed Keelin, Operations Manager of Georgetown Landing Marina, said with a laugh on Thursday. “I’m prepared for a few more boats to show up. All the tournaments are way up in their numbers. I guess with the way the economy is running more boats are participating, more are showing up.”
The public is invited to the weigh-ins at Georgetown Landing Marina on all three days of fishing.
“The boats should start coming in about 5 p.m.,” said Keelin. “We’ve got plenty of beer, plenty of drinks, plenty of T-shirts.”
The crowd can expect to see the meatfish species – wahoo, tuna, dolphin – weighed in, but if a blue marlin is brought to the scales, watch out.
“If they find out a blue marlin’s coming in, all of a sudden the crowd triples,” said Keelin.
The federal minimum size for a blue marlin to be harvested is 99 inches, measured from fork of the tail to tip of the lower jaw.
In S.C. Governor’s Cup events, though, a blue marlin must measure 105 inches to be brought to the dock. If the fish is short, the offending boat would be penalized 600 points.
There will be a group of boats that call Georgetown Landing Marina their home port competing in the tournament, including Beach House, Big Kahuna, Big Sky, Bruno, Christy II, Mirage, Miss Wy, Nauti Girl and Rascal.
One man has been right there with the tournament every step of the way.
Jim Johnston, owner of Blue Sky, has competed in all 50 tournaments and is gearing up to start on another half-century of blue-water fishing in the event.
Johnston was the angler on the first blue marlin ever caught in the tournament, a 216-pounder brought aboard Bonanza, a 23-foot Formula, in 1969.
In 1974, Johnston and his longtime fishing buddy, Bony Peace, won the tournament aboard Jackpot, a 31-foot Bertram. Then Johnston made it back-to-back victories in 1975 aboard Sugar Tango.
Mister Pete won the series opener, the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament, last Saturday after releasing four blue marlin, good for 2,400 points.
Full Pull was second after releasing two blue marlin, two sailfish and one white marlin, for 1,900 points. Artemis was third with three blue marlin releases, good for 1,800 points.
The final event of the 2017-18 school year in the Student Angler League Tournament Trail was held on May 6 out of the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown.
The trail is open to middle school and high school anglers targeting red drum and largemouth bass in separate categories.
Ashton Rouhselang and Lance Cooper of Conway Middle School claimed first place in the Red Drum Division with an aggregate of 6.61 pounds including the largest red drum at 3.82 pounds.
Wyatt Moore fished solo with his dad at the helm and finished second with an aggregate of 4.81 pounds. Noah Payne and Kadyn Kellahan of Andrews High School finished third with 4.26 pounds.
Charlie Holmes and Briggs Causey of Conway High School won first place in the Bass Division with an aggregate of 9.86 pounds.
Marshall Sasser and Kel Owens of Georgetown High School took second place, right on the heels of the winners with 9.84 pounds.
Andrew Ackerman and Jeremy Owens, also of Georgetown High School, finished third with 9.69 pounds.
St. James High School angler Andrew Vereen weighed in the lunker bass, a 3.90-pounder.
With the six SALTT events completed, the trail champions were honored.
Payne and Kellahan won the High School Redfish Division with a cumulative weight of 27.00 pounds while Rouhselang and Cooper won the Middle School Redfish Division with a weight of 28.48 pounds.
Bennett Lawshe and Matt Caines of Waccamaw High School captured the High School Bass Division with a cumulative weight of 36.24 pounds while Oliver Bomar and Conner Strickland of Georgetown Middle School won the Middle School Bass Division with 23.59 pounds.
SALTT founder and coordinator Coach Rayburn Poston is pleased with the progress of his student trail with the completion of its fourth season.
“I’m grateful to see a high retention rate each year along with the addition of new members,” said Poston. “The kids were already talking about next season.”
If you go
What: 51st annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament.
Where: Georgetown Landing Marina, Georgetown.
Fishing Days:Thursday through Saturday (May 24-26), scales open 5 p.m. each day, open to the public.