2015 Cat Cay Tuna Tournament
For the second year in a row the folks at Costa sunglasses have brought back the legendary Cat Cay Tuna Tournament. This year was extra special as it was the 50th anniversary of the historic event. Last years event marked the end of a 23-year hiatus for the tourney.
The legendary “Tuna Alley” and Cat Cay Tuna Tournament have a rich history and are considered by many to have been birthplace of modern sportfishing. The sheer size and power of these fish demanded that anglers invent new tools and tactics to win these hard fought battles.
The discovery of this great fishery back in the 30’s and 40’s drew legendary anglers from around the globe. Names like Ernest Hemingway, Ted Williams, EK Harry, Julio Sanchez, Allan and Buddy Merritt just to name a few.
Bluefin fishing in the Bahamas is different from anywhere else in the world. This is a 100% sight fishery.
As the fish make their annual migration up the Atlantic coast from the Gulf of Mexico, they find their way to the flats of Cat Cay and Bimini Island. In this shallow water of sixty feet or so, the fish will take advantage of a south wind to push them north as they surf the swells. The south wind is absolutely critical as it allows the fish to cover ground without wasting precious energy as they make their way to their feeding grounds. The prime location to spot these tailing fishing is known as the legendary “Tuna Alley”.
Boats fishing for these shallow water beasts need one essential item, a “Tuna Tower”. These towers range in height from 25-feet to as tall as 60-feet. In this case like many others, bigger is better.
The captain and one or more eagle-eyed mates will sit in the tower all day long looking for the dark silhouette of these tuna against the white sandy bottom in the crystal clear water that the Bahamas are known for.
Once a group of tuna is spotted the mate will deploy a rigged dead bait from a 130-pound class rod and reel. The captain will then drag the bait in front of the pack of fish hoping for a bite. If the fish stay up, boats will sometimes get multiple shots at presenting a bait.
Once a fish is hooked, every effort is made by the captain to keep the fish from “going off the edge”.
There are a series of steep drop offs just a few hundred yards outside of tuna alley that will give a bluefin a distinct advantage by swimming straight down into the depths. For this reason captains will try and steer the fish with the boat up into the shallower water.
Costa has designed the event to be a true gentlemen’s affair with anglers competing for trophies and bragging rights, instead of huge paychecks and the problems they can create. The tournament is also as much about camaraderie and tradition as it is fishing. All the competing boats are tied up on the same dock and nightly dinners with all the anglers lead to fun nights of fish tales and new friends.
As with any Costa event, the production is first class.
All anglers are greeted with cold drinks and a Costa duffle bag stuffed with sunglasses, shirts, hats and more. The fishing is also done at gentlemen’s hours with anglers meeting for hearty breakfast before lines in at 9 am followed by lines out at 4 pm.
This years events included six teams competing for the beautiful tuna trophies modeled directly after the trophies of yester year.
Day one of fishing was exciting with several boats seeing groups ranging from 2 to 40 fish and there were several opportunities to present baits. No fish were hooked but spirits were definitely high.
Day two included just a few fish spotted and no baiting opportunities.
Day three was flat calm and no fish spotted by the anglers. Several of the media team and Costa employees did actually see two 400-pound class fish while snorkeling the edge of the reef! This included Amanda Sabin from Costa who said, “It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life to swim with these giants in the crystal clear waters off the Bahamas. It was truly an experience I will never forget.”
Day four again brought little to no wind and no fish spotted and unfortunately concluded the fishing opportunities for the anglers.
As luck would have it, a non-tournament boat fishing for wahoo and yellowfin was fishing Tuna Alley out of Bimini and hooked and landed a giant bluefin late in the final day.
After fishing hard four days in a row, it was great to see such high spirits back at the dock. All of the teams were upbeat and had a great time.
The select group that has fished this event for the last couple of years really seems to understand the historic value of the location, fish and the event. Fishing in this area is not like it was back in the glory days but it is very possible to catch a giant tuna and become a part of the great history of Tuna Alley.