It’s only a matter of days now before the 20th Samoa International Game Fishing Tournament gets underway. To be officially opened on Saturday night, Greg Hopping, who is a member of the Organising Committee said they can hardly wait for the gunshot start.
“As a team, we want to ensure that this year’s tournament will be a great success,” Greg, better known as “Hoppo” said.
The man, originally from Sydney, Australia, knows what he is talking about.
Since the late 1990s, Mr. Hopping has been guiding fishing adventures to and in Samoa. He has been a long serving member of the Samoa International Game Fishing Association (S.I.G.F.A).
And Mr. Hopping can only say positive things about what has changed over the years.
“The biggest change we noticed was the angler’s approach to conservation,” he said.
“When I first came here to Samoa, there was very little tag and release fishing. That has to do with natural habits. Local people like to catch and eat their fish, which is a natural thing.
“But as time progressed and everybody became more informed, the appreciation for sustainability has established itself in people’s minds.
“So with this approach as one of our main purposes, we can make sure for this tournament and for fishing in Samoan waters in general, that our children can go fishing in thirty years and catch a nice fish”.
One aspect of the yearly tournament that will certainly never change, is the question about the weather.
“The weather conditions are always a consideration. If the wind gets over let’s say 25 knots, or the sea gets higher than four meters, then we might consider cancelling the tournament, simply because of safety reasons. But at these days, the weather looks like it is not going to be a problem for the tournament.”
For Mr. Hopping, the definition of game fishing rests upon the understanding of the tournament as a form of sport in which the responsible handling of the sea dwellers caught by the tournament’s members is taken for granted.
“It’s just that, the thrill of catching a fish. But the biggest thrill is letting the fish go. That is our philosophy.”
This responsibility also includes strict regulations for the fishes caught, for instance, the compliance of a minimum weight depending on the species of fish.
The mentioned thrill of having a big fish at the rod has attracted a high number of anglers for this year’s edition of the tournament.
“There are 240 anglers this year, of which 40 take part in the competition’s Ladies Day.”
Most of these anglers, according to Mr. Hopping, attend the tournament every year. Coming from places like America, England, Australia and New Zealand, the anglers need boats to take part in the fishing competition.
“There are 35 boats in the tournament, of which 13 are brought up from New Zealand. The rest of the fleet is made up of boats from Samoa and Pago Pago in American Samoa.”
These boats make up most of the tournament’s costs. The total costs for the international competition are estimated at $300,000, with the money being provided by S.I.G.F.A, thanks to numerous sponsors.
“There are also lots of small sponsors which provide money to make sure that the tournament will continue in the future, just because of their love for game fishing.”
Expectations for this year’s edition of the international game fishing tournament are the same as every year.
“Having a fantastic time and enjoying oneself, meeting good old friends and making new friends as well. Fishing creates friendships because you are together on a boat and you go through not only beautiful days but also the worst days. That’s how you learn how to look after each other.
“It just creates really strong bonds, which are an important part of game fishing. It’s not you catching a fish on your own, it’s an outcome of comradeship and that’s a wonderful thing”.
The sense of community also reflects the tournament's schedule.
“While the first two and the last two days of the competition are an open tournament where male and female anglers can participate, the Ladies Day in between is just for the females, because we’re trying to encourage women to come fishing and join the club, the same goes for children. There are junior anglers taking part in the tournament, which is a good thing, because obviously they are the future of the club.”
As for this year’s 20th anniversary of the tournament, there are already special festivities planned.
“We will be celebrating some new life members, anglers who have been part of the club for a long time and have contributed a lot of their time and effort”.
And of course, for the competition’s 20th birthday, there will be a cake.
“It’s a cake like a fish. A fishcake it is, in the shape of a Marlin, of course.”