WA Billfish Babes
Check out this great article written by our good friend Audi for Billfish Babes Facebook page.
In Western Australia we count ourselves very fortunate for many reasons. For the purpose of this piece I’d like to introduce you to just a few of our blessings. Firstly, we have the beautiful Houtman Abrolhos Islands, the remote Montebello Islands and a family-owned charter company, Blue Lightning Fishing Charters, that fishes both of these groups responsibly, respectfully and with a passion that’s hard to rival. Captain Chad is renowned for his a’billy’ties at the helm of his beloved Reely Black or Blue Lightning & his passion is shared by his gorgeous wife, the lovely Leah.
I first began fishing with Chad a few years ago as his reputation preceded him through the length of the Western Australian Coast. I was yet to meet Leah but I was thankful to find another skipper who welcomed women on board his vessels as a valuable part of the team. I had already been blessed with gaining a part in a competitive gamefishing team and it was one of those skippers who had recommended I meet Chad and Leah.
Fishing with Chad was a delight as his reputation proved to be exactly on the mark when people spoke of his integrity and passion, never mind his abilities at the helm. I was fortunate to gain a spot aboard Blue Lightning as we relocated the 55ft Conquest from Geraldton & the Abrolhos Islands to Dampier and the Montebello Islands.
I wouldn’t meet Leah until our Geraldton & Districts Offshore Fishing Club hosted their 2016 Halco Abrolhos Islands Game Fishing Tournament. I’m fortunate to be a part of the GDOFC Committee & I’m always thrilled to find we have women joining the Club and participating in our tournament. Leah was already a veteran & brought with her a team of women. The girls fished the tournament with plenty of gusto. At one point, there was a three way hook up on Yellow Fin Tuna with one of the ladies in the chair and the other two doing stand up. Leah, who is an ex-model and a slightly built billfishing babe, was one of those doing stand up. The stand out fact was that she was doing stand up without a rod bucket. This waif had a Shimano Tiagra 80 on a custom rod between her legs and she was hauling in a massive tuna no matter what bruising resulted. That was it. I began to hero worship the girl for her passion & her tenacity!
To give you an insight into this remarkable woman I’d have to recap a little of her history….
Leah has always loved the ocean. She has a passion for everything marine-based and she met her match in Chad one day whilst she was modelling at a boat show & he was exhibiting. They fell hook, line & simmer if you’ll pardon the pun. In the early stages of their relationship, one of their early dates, Chad got Leah to compete in her first tournament. Leah was probably not that equipped in that first tournament. If truth be told, she had actually named the livies in the bait tank unaware of their fate! That would all change as she accompanied Chad on the relocation up the coast from Mandurah to the Monties. North of Exmouth she landed her first black Marlin on stand-up and the hook was set by the resultant adrenaline rush which she found so thoroughly exhilarating and the rest is history.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re billfishing aboard Blue Lightning, Reely Black their 40ft Black Watch or bottom fishing, casting or jigging from Global Venture their 40ft custom ali powered by twin Suzuki 300s around the Islands & in the shallows or ripping around fishing from Heart Starter their 24ft Boston Whaler, Leah’s passion remains the same. She’ll find a little space, drop a line, hook a fish, bring it in and return to her duties without anyone realising she’s done it, purely for her love of fishing. She’s a natural.
Moving forward to recent times…
I was up visiting Leah & Chad at the Montebello Islands for Leah’s birthday in September this year, when Chad suggested he take a day off work and take Leah out on Reely Black. Now Leah, true to form, jumped at the opportunity & insisted on a day of billfishing. As the sun began to rise, we followed Blue Lightning out from amongst the Monties and headed out wide. On board Blue Lightning were 8 keen anglers and 2 staff. Aboard Reely Black was Chad, Leah and myself.
The day saw both boats going fish for fish. Leah & I were Switchbaiting, and to say we are completely ‘hooked’ on this method would be an understatement! With Chad’s guidance from up on the bridge, Leah and I were scurrying between switchbaiting, hooking, landing and then leadering each other’s fish. The sails put on a spectacular performance including one leaping over a small pod of dolphins. The GoPro footage shows the dolphins just diving oblivious as the sail launched. The result of the day was 12-10-8 with Leah having captured 5 sailfish and myself 3. We’d considered that an all time great day, that was until Friday the 13th came along..
What a day….
Whilst the stars were still shining bright in the night sky, Captain Chad had Blue Lightning slipping out of the Montebello Islands and heading out wide. On board was Jason Taylor’s Sportsfishing Innovators mostly still sleeping soundly in their bunks. The crew consisted of Captain Chad, Deckie Sam and Leah & myself. It would be a few hours before the suns first rays would grace the horizon and the sailfish would turn on a spectacle that would not just leave the guys weary & weak at the knees but give them fodder to dream about for years to come.
Our first inkling of action came when we saw a marlin feeding on the surface. The guys were primed ready. We were certain it would only be a moment before its focus would shift to our lures. It wasn’t to be. Whatever it was feeding on held its attention so Blue Lightning steamed on.
The crew work smoothly to support each other. If Chad is needed on the back deck for any reason, Leah slips into the skippers seat and angles the boat to the leading angler’s needs, backing up if required and watching anywhere up to a seven way hookup until 6 fish were landed. If there’s multiple hookups as there were on this particular day, we had double hook ups, triples, four ways, five, sixes and even a seven way hookup. The deck looked like a knitting machine with rods and anglers, leaderers and photographers weaving amongst each other to effectively avoid any tangles. The experience was such that it was nothing to have 5-7 anglers on and everyone still taking a moment to enjoy the display of several free jumpers out the back of the lines. It seemed that each time the sailfish appeared to be at their most brilliant, the fish found a way to increase the already sensational spectacle.
There had been a slight lull in the pace so Leah applied the failsafe way proven to get the action kicking off again…she cooked hamburgers & almost the moment the guys started tucking into their lunch Captain Chad yelled ‘Fish up!’ and everyone scrambled into position. People were running in all different directions grabbing rods or cameras. It was a well organised chaos resulting in countless sailfish raised, 55 hook ups and 39 captured. As crew, we never expect to jump on the rods but the ‘Innovators’ insisted the crew would be a part of the angling total. Sam, Leah and I all took our turns on the rods between all of our other duties & like always, loved every minute. We’d take our turn and return to our other jobs. It was awesome.
Leah’s role switches from stand-in skipper to everything on deck. We are fortunate to be afforded every opportunity to rig, manage the teasers, leadering, photograph (capable of getting that money shot even for the fussiest sponsored angler) as well as video and GoPro. When Marlin are involved we’re also responsible for tagging but Blue Lightning Charters have made the conscious choice of not tagging sails to limit the harm to the fish. I love the fact that Leah is unselfish on the deck and we share the love of all things billfishing, enjoying every aspect and being part of a team without having to be on the rod.
Don’t get me wrong, we love being on the rod. Leah’s current billfish total stands at: 1 blue marlin, 14 black marlin, 1 stripe and 13 sails. We always jump at the next billfishing opportunity and we look forward to fishing international waters in the near future.
I have the privilege of fishing with this dynamic duo and I love to see the glint in Chad’s eye whenever he witnesses his billfish babe work her magic from the helm to the back of the deck. He’s so proud of everything she applies herself to especially in her pursuit of billfishing so I think the closing comment should come from him. “Being the captain of a busy charter boat, you look forward to a day off occasionally but when your wife’s addicted to billfishing your back out there. You never want to get in the way of a babe and her billfish.”
For more information on one of our incredible WA Fishing Charters to the Monties check out our Montebello Islands destination page here or contact us at via our contact form. Our Abrolhos Islands fishing season is just around the corner, for more information check out our Abrolhos Islands destination page here.