PENN Challenge 2014
Sweet goodbye to Kenya! But, …we'll be back
The 2014 edition of the PENN Challenge is over.
From 16th till 20th of March, fourteen teams competed day and night for top honors aboard the stunning Malindi & Watamu charter fleet. Each and every skipper more than capable and eager to find, hook and release marlin, sailfish and even the elusive broadbill swordfish.
It was the fish that banned our tournament! They gave everyone a pretty hard time as the bite was completely off during the tournament. The days prior to the PENN Challenge, all skippers found marlin or sails. The days after the tournament go into the journals as the most productive days of the 2013/2014 season. And, the icing on the cake, the day Stuart Simpon on Ol'Jogi II put Watamu and Kenya back on the 'big marlin map of the world' by catching a grander blue. Now that will draw attention to the fishing possibilities in Kenya for a while!
9 Dutch teams, 5 Chinese teams entered the PENN Challenge 2014. 33 fishermen set foot aboard the fishing boats.
The big boys of the Chinese sport fishing world were all present. CEO's of sport fishing magazines, TV stations, manufacturers of fishing gear. You name it! All eager to get a shot at the mighty blue and black marlin.
The kickoff party at the Malindi Sea Fishing Club, organized by Pam Duff, was a big success. The African dancers could hardly move around without hitting into a Chinese video man or photographer. The presentation of the charity goals opened up the hearts of our participants. Later on they all donated generously to the good cause.
After drawing lot on the boats, teams, sponsors and skippers got to know each other a bit better while drinking tons of beer.
The first day in tournament started slowly. At the mountains lots of wahoo, dorado and tuna's got hooked. But, to win this tournament, you have to hunt for marlin. And so they did. But the marlin seemed vanished.
At the end of the first day only 3 teams could add a marlin to their score chart. And, yes, it was a Chinese team that got the biggest that day. Team Sihai Szenghou took the lead in the tournament. Newby Arjan Biesheuvel of the Broadbill team thought he was the luckiest guy in the world by catch a blue marlin on his first ever trip aboard a big game boat. Enough to come in second.
The second trip was an overnight trip. The teams gathered at Ocean Sports early in the afternoon for an outstanding lunch served by Florian Biziere and his staff. Three o' clock sharp all boats left Watamu in search of a grand slam including a broadbill swordfish. However, the odds were against us!
At 8 PM, only one marlin was caught. As the sun set and the moon rose (never, ever before so many photos were made of the sun/moon as in that night), the fleet headed into the night. By 10 PM, eight 'broadbill' hook ups were reported. None of the fish caught.
With a full moon and not a single cloud in the sky you had the feeling it was daytime. Although there weren't fish around the spirit aboard the boats was superb. Most of the guys took food and beverage along. Even a very expensive single malt whiskey and a fine white burgundy was stowed in the gear bags to live through the night.
The most unfortunate skipper was Callum Looman on Tarka. Trying hard to get the team on his boat on the fish. Tarka hooked a blue, black and a sail in the late afternoon, three broadbill at night and none of the fish came in. They all shook the hooks. Two of the broadbill shook 'm while the leader was almost within reach.
At dawn still only one team, again a Chinese team, Fishing Man, had a marlin at the score chart and were appointed winners of the 18 hour night trip.
One might think the guys were disappointed about the fishery at night. Some were. But most of them enjoyed the once in a life time experience spending the night at sea.
After setting foot on the Watamu Beach again, Florian and his staff welcomed all fishermen and skippers for a solid full continental breakfast.
With the lay day in sight, most participants dressed up for a night into town. Some of the Chinese guys joined 'm. Going out with about 30 guys, hitting bar after bar is an amazing experience. The Chinese beer game Cam Bee (??) brought a lot of laughter.
This year two volunteers of the Fishing Dutchmen Foundation accompanied us to Kenya. Pep Karel , the foundations secretary, and Monique van Koert put a lot of effort in raising funds for the orphanages Lea Mwana and Blessed Generation in Malindi. Their goal during their stay in Kenya was to furnish the new Lea Mwana (orphan house on the road to Watamu) and help out at Blessed Generation's outreach program. Next to that they assisted the tournament committee with all kind of organizational matters to the tournament. When Tina and Mark Allen heard of their involvement with our charity goals, they offered the girls a stay at Kulala Camp in combination with a safari during the overnight trip. You can imagine how thrilled Pep and Monique were when they got word of this unexpected threat. Mark and Tina; Thank you, Thank you Thank you, for a trip the girls will never, ever forget!
The day off
Lay day, traditionally, is the day a lot of guys go out fishing for fun. Speed jigging, bottom fishing or just plain trolling. The most colorful fish got caught. Deep dropping for Rock Cod brought some of the ugliest fish you ever seen. At the weigh in in Watamu, multiple rock cod, warsaw grouper, ruby - en red snapper, green jobfish and some unknown species displayed their colours. The boats that trolled the Watamu Mountains and Canyons caught loads of wahoo, dolphin, kingfish and yellowfin tuna. Those who gambled on hooking a marlin had a tuff time. Only a couple were raised, none were hooked.
The end game
The final day in tournament was a copy of the first day.
At day break seven teams still had zero points noted on the score board. Four teams, all had one marlin. Theoretically speaking, every team had a chance in winning the tournament.
Again the marlin seemed to have disappeared. In the morning only Eclare found a marlin. Luckily the bite was on in the afternoon. The marlin were finicky. Some were hooked for a short period. Newby skipper in the PENN Challenge, Brian Matiba on Shuwari found a sound blue marlin for The Hoogduin Brothers.
The Trauma Team caught their marlin and a good size dolphin. Enough to take the first place for this day. . Second, with only 20 points less as The Trauma Team, ended The hoogduin Brothers. They also caught their marlin. This blue marlin, estimated at 300 lbs proved to be the heaviest marlin in competition. In third came the Chinese team Fishing Man. Catching a marlin on the last day. They also caught the only marlin during the overnight trip.
At the Tropical Village hotel, Bruno Fontana and his staff, transferred the garden into a open air dinner theater. With lots of flowers, banners, lights, a stage and a large buffet we found ourselves in a perfect setting for the prize giving. Who could ask for more.
During a great dinner the final results were presented, the prize giving to place and our partners in the tournament were thanked. Afterwards we auctioned some items for charity and the Chinese delegation made a superb gesture by handing over a large amount of money to add to charity.
The final results
In first place overall and best Chinese team: Fishing Man
Second place overall and best Dutch team, The Hoogduin Brothers
Third place overall, Trauma Team leaded by good old Leo Haak
Forth place overall, Sihai Szenghou
Heaviest fish in tournament; Blue marlin, 140 kgs, Klaas Hoogduin
Best boat in tournament; Shuwari, Bryan Matiba
Second best boat; Neptune, Angus Paul
Third best boat; Seyyida, Dave Darnsborough
All prizes are donated by PENN Reels Europe. Robert Valkeneer, EMEA Brand Product Manager PENN, was present at the prize giving to congratulate the winners and hand over their prizes.
Winner Qualifying Event
The PENN Challenge is a qualifying event to the 2015 Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica. The PENN Challenge will be represented in Quepos, Costa Rica by Team Fishing Man, Wang Huaixian and Zhang Qin the proud winners of the 2014 edition.
The PENN Challenge was held six times in Kenya. That simply isn't possible without local help.
From day 1, in 2009 Kingfisher Malindi, Adrian, Catharina, Angus and later on Angie, helped us out big time. Bringing in their boats and those of others in the first years, taking care of the transfers between hotels and boats, being our spokesman in Malindi and Watamu and so on. Thanks for that! We highly appreciate your support.