The 2020 Lowrance Billfish 15000 is the 34th edition of this tournament to take place at Sodwana Bay on the Zululand Coast and Lowrance SA will be sponsoring the first prize. The winners will receive a Lowrance HDS 16 Live bundled with a Lowrance Outboard Pilot (Autopilot), an Airmar P-79 transducer and a Navionics Gold RSA East chart.
This year anglers, organisers and sponsors will be masked up and sanitised, as they gather in a giant marquee for the registration and briefing on the Sunday night. Lowrance SA’s Liz, John, Steph and Keith will be there to meet old and new friends. This is usually a good evening of socialising and showing off Lowrance units, clothing and accessories.
Most will retire early, as from 3am boats will start making their way to the beach to queue for the launch at first light. Once given the go ahead they’ll set off through the surf to the backline, where they’ll wait for the official start of this five-day challenge to catch the heaviest billfish. Catches are recorded and compared each day for daily prizes until the final winners emerge on the last day.
There are very few billfish grounds around the world where you can successfully target Black, Blue and Striped Marlin, Sailfish and Shortbill Spearfish on the same day and this popular competition is the biggest of its kind in the world. (In the past there have been participating teams from Finland, Wales, Italy, Australia, England, Hawaii, Zimbabwe, Azores, Namibia, Germany, Canada and Swaziland).
This tournament is limited to a specific number of boats and works on an invitation-only basis. There is a unique point system in place. To qualify for weigh-in, the minimum weight must exceed 200kg and each billfish caught must be photographed, tagged and released. The biggest billfish caught in the history of the tournament was a Black Marlin of 375kg in the year 2000. In 2010 a Black Marlin weighed in at 351kg, the second biggest for the Billfish 15000 in 24 years. Headlines were made in 2011, with a new world record of 133 billfish caught and successfully released in five days.
The Billfish 15000 actively contributes towards research by assisting Oceanographic Research Institute (O.R.I) in collecting all statistics of catches of gamefish, and the tag and release of every billfish. They also generously contribute financially towards Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for conservation and development.
The organising committee, under Willie Pretorius from Dorado Skiboat Club, has worked very hard to adjust the format of the tournament - to meet the criteria of the Covid-19 rules and regulations. All the necessary permits have been obtained to the relief of the organisers and anglers and all are gearing up for another successful competition.
This year, Team Lowrance’s John Minnie, Jaco Swart, Keith Falconer and Frik Fourie are looking for the win in this exciting event and who knows, they could just pull if off. Or maybe they’ll be the team to catch the only available specie which has not yet been caught during the Billfish 15000 - the Gladiator of the deep – the Broadbill.