Fished the Balboa Angling Club's Master Angler Billfish Tournament this weekend. Originally planned to fish it with Jimmy Decker on his 24-foot Everglades, but last week we were invited to join the team on the Good Karma, a beautiful 72-foot Donzi. Pretty nice upgrade over sleeping on the deck of a center console. Our team consisted of Captain Shawn Morgon at the helm, his son Rudy manning the gyros and leadering fish, and Bobby Lienau, Decker and myself in the cockpit. If you're unfamiliar with the MABT format (which I certainly was), it's an IGFA rules light tackle tournament. Anglers could use 12, 16, 20 or 30 pound test with 12 pound earning the most points per fish and 30 pound earning the least. All lines used to catch fish had to be submitted for testing after the tournament. Also, once an angler hooks a fish, no one can touch the rod, or line until the fish is leadered. Our arsenal was set up with 20 and 30 pound test trolling rods and 12 and 16 pound test casting rods. Thursday's plan was to run up the beach and look for fish with our end destination being Anacapa Island. We saw a few fish in the Santa Monica Bay on Thursday morning, but not enough to warrant starting there on tournament day. By mid afternoon we'd made it to Anacapa and saw some good signs of fish, so we ran up and anchored at Smuggler's on the east end of Santa Cruz Island. After dinner and a few cocktails we called it a night. The tournament started at 6:30 am and we put out our trolling spread while looking for fish in the gyros. No sooner did we get the rods out than Rudy spotted our first sleeper a couple miles ahead. The fish ate the first bait that hit the water and Bobby hooked it on 16 pound but the fish shook the circle hook after a couple minutes. The rest of the morning was spent running on sleeper after sleeper but none of them bit. Around noon we found a hungry one that broke Bobby off on 12 pound, then picked Deckers bait on 16 pound before swimming back to the stern and eating my bait on 16 pound. I was lucky enough to hook the fish and after a 10 minute fight we released it successfully. It was really strange to be fighting a 100 pound plus fish on that light line. We had the drag set at 6 pounds at strike, so as the fish ran I had to back the drag off to 2 or 3 pounds when half the spool was out. As I recovered line, I bumped the drag back up to full, but if it started running again I had to back it off again. Luckily Rudy was there to coach me and to yell at me when I'd stop winding for even a second... That was our only fish for the day, despite having multiple chances. Some of the other boats did a lot better, with teams landing as many as four fish for the day. The day one total for 41 boats was 34 fish. So we headed back to the anchorage to lick our wounds and work on our strategy for day two. The anchorage was packed that night with more yachts than it's probably ever seen in one day. After dinner we got our trolling gear changed up and came up with a game plan for day two. Saturday morning's sunrise looked like it belonged in Baja rather than Ventura... Rather than spend another morning on the non-biting sleepers, Shawn decided to check out a different area. That move paid off as Bobby hooked one on 30-pound on the troll. After releasing that fish, we moved on and I hooked and landed another fish on the troll. Later in the day the wind came up and Rudy spotted a tailer. That fish at Bobby's mackerel on 16 pound and while he was fighting it, four more marlin swam through and I got bit on 16 pound but the fish didn't get the hook. That ended up being a good thing because Bobby's fish went long and we had to chase it for over 3 miles before releasing it. Had we both hooked up one of us would have gotten spooled for sure. As the 6:00 pm lines out approached we were really hoping for one more bite to move us up in the standings, but it never happened. As it turned out, Saturday's fishing was a lot tougher and several of the teams that did well on day one, struggled on day two. When we attended the awards dinner on Sunday night we found out our team had ended up in 3rd place and that I'd gotten 8th place high angler and Bobby had 10th place high angler. Marlin fishing really isn't my thing, but I had a blast fishing this tournament. The coolest part was casting to marlin just a couple hundred yards outside of where the 3/4 day fleet was fishing yellows at Anacapa. One of the teams even hooked a blue marlin in that zone, although the battle was over almost immediately on 12 pound test. Another team hooked a marlin on 16 pound and lost it after a 9 1/2 hour battle.