For the past two years, the Sodwana Bay Spearfishing Club has hosted the Sodwana Bay Gamefish Challenge. This year's competition was assisted with sponsorship by Suzuki, whose DF 60 AVTL engines proved to be the motor of choice for the skippers in the competition. The event was held over three days in September, and it was hailed as a wonderful success for the club. Suzuki was proud to be involved in the competition, and to be able to provide the outboard motors which made navigating the waves a breeze. The Club sent us an overview of the event, which was enjoyed by all who were involved.
Â The 'Sodwana Bay Gamefish Challenge' spearfishing competition
Spearfishing in South Africa has grown significantly in the last few years. Since its inception, the Sodwana Bay Spearfishing Club has been promoting and creating awareness of this vibrant and active sport. Our efforts to grow the sport are dependent on our good relationships with the rest of the sport fishing community and conservation agencies. All parties were closely involved so that future events will be welcomed with enthusiasm.
Sodwana Bay boasts some of the best coral reef systems and most amazing marine life in the world which makes it an excellent spearfishing destination. It remains for many the diving spot of choice.
The first Sodwana Bay spearfishing competition was held in July 2014 and was enjoyed by 40 "spearos" and their families. The event was lauded as a great success by all who were involved. Based in Sodwana Bay, the event actively supported the local economy and worked towards promoting the exclusive use of local businesses and suppliers. The winner of the 2014 competition took 1st place with a 22kg king mackerel, winning R50 000 worth of prizes.
The organisers of this year's competition were adamant to have a bigger and better competition that 2014. The event was held from 24-27 September 2015. They landed on the name "Game Fish Challenge" for the competition, which turned out to be one of the biggest and best gamefish spearfishing competitions to be held in South Africa to date.
Attractive prizes make a competition and this one was no exception. The organisers contacted a few major potential sponsors, and after some deliberation with Suzuki Sodwana Bay's David Urtel, an invitation was forwarded to Tanja Maes from Suzuki Auto South Africa to be part of this wonderful event. Suzuki Auto South Africa, Suzuki Sodwana and Gentan Marine worked together to organise prizes in excesses of R160 000; unprecedented in the South African Spearfishing community.
With a healthy interest in the competition, divers of all levels arrived from all over South Africa, and even from as far afield as the USA and Dubai. The big South African spearfishing brands were more than willing to support the event, and the main sponsors included Suzuki Sodwana Bay, Gentan Marine, Â Halfway Toyota, Rob Allen, Freedivers, Camp Jonathan, Gorilla Glue South Africa.
The total entries for the competition were just over 90 participants with a total of 30 boats.
Although sea conditions were not perfect, with gusting winds predicted in the afternoons, the swell remained small, presenting no risk to divers. The competition got the green light and it was all systems go.
The first day of the competition arrived. Water visibility in the morning was good at 15m, although it decreased towards the afternoon. With not many gamefish around, the divers really had to work hard.
Surprisingly, even with imperfect conditions, competitors managed to spear good fish. Chris Koen took the lead with a 28kg Giant Trevally (Ignoblis Kingfish) and Jaco Blignaut took the biggest bag with 77 points. The challenge was on.
Day two started with the conditions being fairly similar to the previous day, but unfortunately visibility deteriorated towards the afternoon. The wind started picking up and was gusting at 18 knots in the afternoon which led to many of the divers being back on the beach by 12h00.
One of the (scary) highlights of day two was a 5m great white visiting two groups of divers!
At the weigh-in, a 25kg Giant Trevally speared by Riaan Weideman was leading for the day. Jaco Blignaut remained in the lead for biggest bag with another 56.2 points.
The prize giving was held on the evening of the 26th September, and with all the sponsors involved it was possible to award prizes to almost every individual who speared a fish. Prizes ranged from spear guns, wetsuits and even a water cooler sponsored by Crystal Coolers. There were lucky draw prizes compliments of Bondiblu Sunglasses, Certainty Marlin Charters and Accommodation, Maginty Lodge and Gorilla Adhesive Products. Team Freedom offered a trip on a Knysna 440 to spearfish tuna off Cape Town for two days and two nights.
At the end of the evening, it was time to place the winners. Second prize, valued at R50 000, went to Jaco Blignaut for having the biggest bag on points. He won himself an all-expenses paid trip to Zanzibar for six days, courtesy of Extreme Bluewater Spearfishing, and flights courtesy of Firzt Realty.
First prize went to Chris Koen, who was the favoured winner at the end of the first day. What makes this achievement special is that he is a relatively new member to the sport. One of his friends had assisted him in purchasing his entry for the competition! Chris was nearly in tears, and was shaking like a leaf at the prize giving, where he won himself an Adventure Ski Boat with a 60HP Suzuki 4 stroke engine, complete with trailer, valued at over R160 000!
Many thanks to the organisers, sponsors, participants and the local community of Sodwana Bay for making this competition such a memorable event. Many thanks to Manie Le Roux who did an exceptional job in the organization of such an exceptional event. We're looking forward to an even greater event in 2016.