In the mid-to late 60’s Bacardi International Limited, headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda, at the request of Mr. Jose M. (Pepin) Bosch purchased the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club in Bimini, Bahamas. The Bimini Big Game Fishing Club was founded in 1947 and through the years hosted many luminaries of the sport of big game fishing.
Mr. Guillermo (Bill) Garcia became the first Club manager in the Bacardi era and one of his first promotional activities at the Club was the creation of the Bacardi Rum Billfish Tournament. During the 1970’s Bimini was the Mecca of big game fishing and was the host site to numerous fishing competitions, including the Frankie Brown, the Hemingway and various blue fin tuna tournaments. In order to create an identity for the new tournament, Bill Garcia followed the concept and traditions of the Big Game Club logo- Comradeship, Good Fishing and Good Times!
And, ever since its inception and based on the long history of Bimini, the Bacardi Rum Billfish Tournament has maintained its reputation as one of the finest, most fun, best run fishing tournaments in the world. In Bimini, tradition dictated that the Bahamas Billfish tournament season would start with the Frankie Brown fishing tournament hosted by Blue Water Marina/The Compleat Angler. After the organizers stopped producing this event, the Bacardi Rum Billfish Tournament became, by default, the opening tournament of the Bahamas Billfish tournament season, a distinction which it still carries today. A lot of emphasis was placed on camaraderie and good times, while Bacardi provided the good “spirits”.
In the thirty year history of the tournament there has been a veritable “who’s who” list of winners of this event. Many modern day stalwarts of the sport, such as Bartow Rainey, Sam Jennings and Ed Hardin have had their names placed on the “Winners Circle”. Legendary anglers who have passed away, such as Bob Hammersla and Rus Hensley also added their names to the Winners Circle. The legendary Kaye Pearson, who passed away in March of 2009, was the only angler to have won the tournament twice, once in 2002 and the second time in 2006. The tournament itself has had only two tournament Directors, Bill Garcia and Raul Miranda.
After a thirty year plus stint of ownership of the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club, the Bacardi Rum Company finally sold the venerable facility. Kaye Pearson, who had just formed International Marinas, was instrumental in approaching Raul Miranda and moving the tournament to its venue for the past nine years, Port Lucaya Marina on Grand Bahama Island.
The tournament has seen its entries fluctuate through the years. It has been held during some extremely difficult financial times and has survived drops in entries due to wars in the Middle East and terrorist attacks. These fluctuations have been from a high of 98 boats in Bimini to a low of 11 boats during the venue transition tournament. But, what sets the Bacardi apart from other tournaments, through the good times and the difficult times, good weather conditions and “Bacardi” weather conditions, record breaking fishing and some very slow fishing, has been the undermining principle of comradeship and good times. The tournament has a cult following which knows that Bacardi provides the “spirit” while all of the participants provide the friendships and the good times.
Bertram Yachts has always been an integral part of the Bacardi Rum Billfish Tournament. Bertram, with its factory in Miami, a close 49 miles away from Bimini, was one the initial participating boat manufacturers and sponsors of this event. Bertram, the Bacardi and Bimini were known as the “Three B’s” of modern era big game fishing. “Moppie”, the Bertram factory boat probably spent more time in Bimini than it did in the Miami River. Captains Pierre and Anita Pierce became part of the local Bimini folklore.
The Bacardi is also known for its “Bermuda Connection”. It was only a matter of time that because of the ties between Bacardi in Bermuda and The Bimini Big Game Fishing Club and the personnel involved that the tournament would eventually attract a who’s who of Bermuda fishing legends. Captains Alan Card, Henry De Silva and Alan De Silva, Ian Card and “Chops” were amongst the first to participate in the event. Later, this participation would be reciprocated when numerous Bacardi anglers would travel to Bermuda to fish the Bermuda Billfish tournaments.
Finally, the tournament can only be as good as the staff and producers of the event. Raul Miranda has been very fortunate through the years to have been assisted by Sue Graves, Marine Artist Steve Goione and entertainer Barnaby Jones. Most recently, Kenny Jones has joined the Committee and will help guide the tournament through the next decade. The Billfish Foundation has always been an integral part of the event and their fund raising raffle, headed by Deborah Cummings and Jennifer Lacombe has led to a mutually beneficial relationship.