Tourism at its best—the 13th Steinlager International I’a Lapo’a Gamefishing Tournament
Thirteen is apparently a very lucky number—if you’re holding a gamefishing tournament, that is.
According to Peter Crispin, Tournament Director and Chairperson for the recently held 13th Steinlager International I’a Lapo’a Gamefishing Tournament completed in the territory last Saturday, this tournament was their biggest and best yet.
An increasingly popular event, this year’s tournament was hosted — as it has been for the past several years — by the Pago Pago Game Fishing Association (PPGFA) and supported by major sponsors Steinlager and the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, drawing boats from New Zealand, Samoa and American Samoa into the competition, with some 19 boats competing overall.
Crispin, an avid angler himself, and one of the founders of the PPGFA, told Samoa News that the visiting fishermen and women all commented on the great reception — and the good time they always have here.
He noted that there were a few mishaps during the week, with a couple of the boats having some mechanical problems “but they were all solved and everyone was safe” throughout the tournament, which lasted from May 7- May 12 this year.
“Everyone I spoke to said they would be back next year and are looking forward to the next tournament,” he stated.
The Pago Pago Game Fishing Association was founded in 2003, according to their website, by a group of “recreational anglers with a competitive spirit and a desire to hold semi-organized competitions”.
“One thing led to another and the next thing you know we are holding ten, single day, single species tournaments and a 4-day event every year” said PPGFA about its early days.
The tournament has grown exponentially over the years, and is now working closely with the American Samoa Visitors Bureau to enhance tourism and add new revenue to our economy, according to Crispin.
“This is tourism at its best” he said... “with the visitors here having a good time, putting a lot of fresh money into our economy and returning home with a smile on their faces and great memories.”
He added that “None of this would be possible without the support of our sponsors and the volunteers who put so much hard work into making it happen. We cannot thank them enough and hope we give them the exposure they deserve for their support.”
This kind of tournament is a lot work to organize, he added.
In fact, it is a competition involving two countries, the International Dateline, and numerous other logistic hurdles.
Independent Samoa holds its gamefishing tournament (the SIGFA competition) each year about this time, and “since the boats from New Zealand were there already, we decided to hold a tournament immediately following theirs — to make the most of all the gamefishers in the region,” said Andy Wearing of Industrial Gases, current president of PPGFA.
He added that some species which are caught here are not caught at all in New Zealand, such as wahoo and dog-tooth tuna. Other species, such as yellow fin and masi masi are rare in New Zealand, which adds to the excitement of the catch.
Wearing had this to say about the recent tournament: “We needed the assistance of many people to make this work, including government agencies. We received great cooperation from Port Authority, Customs, Immigration, Health and Agriculture. They made life easy for everyone, and it is much appreciated. For the last few years, they have greatly assisted us in this endeavor.”
Crispin added, “We immediately follow the Samoa International Game Fishing Association tournament, so we have the unusual logistics of small pleasure boats traveling between countries. There are not many places in the world where you can take a pleasure boat this size, travel 35 miles, have a 24-hour time change and then have to go through the process of entry and clearance of customs into a new country, just to continue competing.”
Samoa News asked what happens to all of the I’a Lapo’a—the big fish — caught during the tournament? Crispin said the fish goes “to sponsors, to people who helped us, and to Hope House.”
“Let's hope it is appreciated as much as we appreciate the help and support,” said the tournament director.
Steinlager — one of the tournament’s major sponsors — “is happy to support this tournament” said Sonja Stanley Galea’i of Sunshine Inc, the island’s distributor for Steinlager. “This is a very professionally run tournament and the organizers are a joy to work with — a sponsor’s dream” she told Samoa News.
Cash prizes, wahoo, trophies — and, of course, bragging rights — are all included in the prize roster. The payout for this year’s event was about $20,000 in cash alone, not counting numerous other prizes and awards.
According to Debbs Cox, another of the organizers, and secretary for PPGFA, this year’s tournament had a record number of boats and participants, and is recognized by the International Gamefishing Association (IGFA), which allows the local club to award participation in the next International Tournament, to be held in Costa Rica in 2013.
Debbs told Samoa News, “Our committee worked very well together; we are a great team” adding, “I’m very proud to have been part of this team and part of this tournament. Our main aim is to promote tourism through game fishing —this is an international event, and it will get bigger!”
Top five anglers (with points) in this year’s tournament:
Name Country Vessel
Brian Atkins 541.6 (Samoa) Fu'a II
Mathew Randrup 400.0 (New Zealand) B-Caus
Darren Spillane 400.0 (New Zealand) Girlfriend
Mike Apted 392.4 (Am. Samoa) Southern Destiny
Sepp Steffany 370.0 (Am. Samoa) Southern Destiny
Boat Standings (Top Five):
Vessel Captain Country
Fu'a II Vaughan Simpson New Zealand
Southern Destiny Chris Donato Am. Samoa
Bonavista II Andy Wearing Am. Samoa
Southern Ikon Brent White New Zealand
Girlfriend Marc Noakes New Zealand
Complete tournament statistics and info can be found on PPGFA website: www.ppgfa.com