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Lowrance Billfish 15000

One of the most exciting deepsea competitions on the South African fishing calendar, runs 9-13 November 2020. 

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. 

 

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John Minnie

John started deep-sea fishing at 15 years old and his passion for the sport led him into his career with Lowrance SA. He joined the company 11 years ago, learning everything he could about the “inner workings” of Lowrance units and rising through the ranks to Technical Manager of the company. John is looking to catch his first billfish - after many years of “practising”. He says he’s often been onboard when others have landed these elusive fish, but “it’s not yet been my time in the chair.” Over many years he has been the “go-to” person for Lowrance users at the competition – offering tips and advice, troubleshooting and fixing problems where necessary. Even though he’s fishing this year, John will again be available to anglers needing assistance with their Lowrance units. His love of fishing has also extended into Bass fishing and he’s joined a thriving Tournament Bass Fishing trail. If he’s not out at sea demo’ing Lowrance units or deepsea fishing, you’ll find him on one of the many inland dams, testing his Bass fishing skills and showing off the latest Lowrance units and the Ghost Trolling motor.

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Jaco Swart

Businessman, skipper and seasoned angler, Jaco started fishing aged 16. He spends every free moment on the water and visits Sodwana Bay at least bi-monthly – where he stays at his well-equipped Lodge. Jaco has taken part in the Billfish 15000 more than 10 times. He has always fished the Billfish on other boats, but this year, as skipper for Team Lowrance - he’ll use his own 24ft Z-Craft Skiboat which is fitted with a Lowrance Carbon 16 unit. Jaco has caught many billfish including marlin over the years and the biggest of these was an 800lb Blue Marlin which he caught in December 2015. His experience and expertise will undoubtedly prove invaluable to Team Lowrance – and we look forward to great results.

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Keith Falconer

Keith started fishing as a nine-year-old when his mother introduced him to the sport! He was instantly hooked and went on to become a very versatile angler with experience in deepsea jetski, kayak and skiboat fishing. He’s fished offshore in the Seychelles, Mauritius, Mozambique and all along South Africa’s coastline. Keith has mainly fished for Tuna and other Pelagics but has never been in a competition which specifically targets billfish. He’s looking forward to the experience. As he is based inland, he also turned his attention to inland fishing. He spends many hours on the water assisting bassing and other anglers and fishing in his spare time. Keith has South Africa colours for flyfishing, and he took part in the 2014 Commonwealth Flyfishing Championships in England. He joined Lowrance SA in 2018 as dealer liaison for Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West Provinces. His extensive knowledge of all facets of fishing has proved immeasurable among his diverse spectrum of Lowrance users.

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Frik Fourie

Mining engineer and avid angler Frik Fourie, was three when he first learned to fish with his dad – targeting inland species like Bass, Carp and others. He has only been deepsea fishing since 2017 and he’s caught a number of good-sized Dorado, Wahoo, Tuna and other game fish. While it could be “beginner’s luck” - whichever boat he’s been on, Frik’s either witnessed a Billfish catch or caught one himself. A fellow crew member caught a Blue Marlin on Frik’s first trip out to sea and on his second outing Frik caught a rare Short Bill Spearfish of 23.5kg (that same day Jaco Swart caught and released a Striped Marlin). The following year (2019), Frik caught a 191.5kg Black Marlin at Sodwana. He says each big catch has come just when it’s gone quiet and the crew have taken a break to relax. Frik has never fished in a competition before and he’s excited his first experience will be at the place which has afforded him such good returns.