Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge 2017
After 2 years, Fishyology were left out in one of the most prestigious Saltwater fishing tournament in Malaysia. Finally, we are back with a new lineup and a new team to participate in the 2017 edition of the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge. It is an annual off-shore fishing competition under the auspices of the Pahang State Government. It is jointly organized by Tioman Development Authority and the Pahang office of Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, in collaboration with the Malaysian Angling Association.
The competition is only for catches of sailfish and marlins and contestants are guided by the rules of conduct based on international standards set by the Billfish Foundation and The International Game Fish Association. Catch and Release is compulsory whereby after capture the fish is unhooked photographed and returned to the sea before experiencing exhaustion or injury.
Harry & Louit Advertising were our main sponsor this year. It all balls back to Mr Nelson Philip the founder of H&L, who has experience a great fishing outing with Fishyology back in 2016. This year, Nelson return to Malaysia to participate in RPBIC 2017. It’s all about being there in the tournament, competing with the big boys and to have a hands-on experience being in a relatively one of the most special tournament in South East Asia.
Participating in a large tournament requires proper planning. Boat Charter, Accommodation & Transportation arrangement must be done promptly to ensure everything needed on tournament day is available to us. Within April we have secured our boat and by July flight arrangement has been made. Team apparel were done quite late as I was too tied up with a lot of fishing tours, even Nelson is occupied with his work. Our outfit were simple and I finally collect it a day before heading off to Rompin.
Overall, we could have done a bit better in-terms of preparation. Literally this is our first proper tournament outing and we can be more prepared next year. The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge 2017 tournament will be held on the weekend of 16-17 September, Saturday & Sunday. We have our recce or training trip on the 15th, Friday. Friday is an important day for us all as we need to experience the full process of fishing for billfish. Unlike guided fishing trip, anglers are required to search for bait, rig the bait, hook the fish and properly billed the fish with their own hand. This will be Nelson’s first time doing it all by himself and it is going to be a crash course on Firday.
Friday – Practice Day
We were up early and does feel good to back in Rompin. There is always an expectation to feed and one of it is to catch-up with Chris and Scott in the morning. I think we leave the jetty about 9.00. Take our time and have our breakfast. Typical omelette and “Kopi Susu” haha. Fooz was already eager to get going. The weather looks ok. Although it rained in the evening and wind starts to blow hard late in the afternoon. I was a bit worried that I might feel a bit seasick after a month without venturing out at sea. It will all be find when we hit the water. Our body will adjust the condition and we will be good in no time.
The morning stint was all about finding the right bait. Our first stop at the FAD’s or Unjam were productive and were quick to fill in our live well. We made a further 2 stops in Unjam close to the fishing ground which is Berhala Island. It was relatively ok should we run out of bait the next day. Now it is time to get the bait in the water and hopefully hook on to some sailfish. Only circle hook is allowed when it comes to Billfish fishing. The tricky part is to set the hook at the right time. We set the hook late, it will end up in the fish belly. Set it to early, the bait will be left behind. Nelson must get it right before the whole tournament takes place.
During our first bait drift, Nelson has his first chance to set the hook. Anxiety does come into play when we are about to step into unknown area. As the fish make the first dash, Nelson closed the bail too early and the fish just drop the bait behind. Second opportunity emerges and this time the fish leaps out of the water several time and heads towards the boat. The sound thing to do was to reel in fast and keep the tension tight. After establishing line tension, Nelson jerk the rod to hook the fish and the bait just came off from the fish mouth. 2 good chance missed, but Fooz finally got the chance to show him how to properly set the hook. After 10-15 seconds, all he need to do is reel in and keep the line tension on and the hook will set automatically. We ended the training day early as we need to get ready for the registration and be there for the team briefing.
Registration takes place in Lanjut Beach Resort, about 15km away from the main jetty. There are only two beach resorts in Rompin and Lanjut is one of it. We were there by 8.00pm and process was quick and easy. In total this year, 26 team participate in the 2017th edition. Scott , Chris and Peter from the Sail Slayers are looking to repeat their outstanding podium finish last year and Patrick Erler along his Rompin Deckie crew are set to give Sail Slayers a good run for their money haha. Those are some of my best buddies and they are freakin competitive.
Fooz were on duty to escort Brad Spencer, Sailfish Bandits team. Another team who has been part of this tournament for about 5 years now. Being able to watch all this professional and experienced teams with their outstanding outfit and confidence can be intimidating, especially for first timers. Nelson certainly feels the pressure and somehow Patrick’s “weak link” taunt psyched him hahaha. It doesn’t matter basically as I said the only reason you are here is to experience an international tournament and have fun. We didn’t wait too long at the briefing as it is the same briefing over the past several years. We stopped by at James and had our late dinner before head it to bed for first day of the tournament.
Let the Battle Begin, Day 1
The day begin early as teams are getting ready to board their respective boat and head down to Lanjut main Jetty for the Flag Off session. All the boats are required to collect the official RPBIC Marshall and gift and lunch packs for the tournament. Marshall is responsible to ensure all participants adhere to the tournament rule and it is his duty to mark the score. Sailfish were given a 600 points and Marlin 1000 points. At the end of the second day, total catch and points will be calculated and the boat with the most scores win the tournament.
As soon as the siren were pushed, off we go to begin the first day. From that time onward until 6.00pm. We need to fully utilize the fishing time available to us. We dashed out to our first Unjam and did a pretty good job bringing in the live bait. Stocked it for the whole day and dashed out to Berhala Island. Right about half way to Berhala, we came across a large group of birds circling baitfish and we notice some Sailfish rises. We took the chance and drop 2 live bait out.
Nelson soon were called to action as his bait were taken by the Sailfish. It was do or die, but this time he is composed and locked the bail at the right moment. Soon he was on his way to score the first fish of the day. The condition was a bit choppy in the morning, but keep his head down and bring the fish for our first catch the day. We head straight to Berhala after our first fish as the main battle ground is there. Still another 30 minutes to go before the real challenge begin.
I did came close to score twice on the stickbait. The Sailfish were chasing it and slowly took the stickbait but did not had the opportunity to really set the hook properly. It was fun to watch and as it comes closer and closer to pick the lure. As we heading for third attempt, the suddenly were struck by a fish. It was not pulling to much but it was realtively one way fight as I reel the fish closer to the boat. “Singapore Marlin” I shouted to the captain. Some how Nelson just head to front deck and start to pose with the fish. I was quite surprise with the reaction I thought it was a rare fish to them. Haha. The thing is they though that was a Marlin haha. They only heard the end part of it. Funny moment haha.
As the time progresses, Nelson was up to the task with another 2 Sailfish. The second one was the toughest as the line wrapped the body of the fish. It just gonna cost us more time and we don’t really want to push too hard as that will injured the fish. Finally we did manage to free it and released is safely. 3rd one was relatively easy as the size was a matured juvenile Sailfish. The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge 2017 intensifies mid day as the team will push hard to set some good points for the first day.
In total, we only landed 4 out of possible 9. That was just not ideal. Fooz were just not getting any bite. I lost a bunch too and was just not in the game. I though I am going to skunked but finally got one fish hook solidly. I will cost the team badly and it has been a tough day for us. Right about 2 hours to the end. We decided to head to Tok Damat for one last chance before we need to cross the green buoy tn entry to Kuala Rompin by 6.00pm. We didn’t get anything that last moment and head home. Sail Slayers and LXF Team are doing great as expected with 10 each. It was a tight competition with lots of team getting some good start to the first day with 6 7 8 sailfish. It was amazing and we look forward for the second day.