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March 06, 2009

The Not-So-Casual Observer

One-day IGFA Observer Training Course prepares anglers to "referee" big game fishing tournaments

The class, taught by Schratwieser, is very informative.  For those that think spending a Saturday trapped in a hotel meeting room sounds about as much fun as traffic school,  don't worry. Get a group of anglers together and you'll soon find out the next best thing to actually fishing is talking about fishing.

Instruction includes IGFA rules and fishing regulations, along with what observers are and aren't supposed to do (you're there to observe and report back to tournament directors - not be a judge or disqualify fish).  There could be big money or just big egos at stake; either way, you don't want to get in the middle.   In catch and release tournaments, observers may be required to identify billfish "on the fly" (literally) during a fight that may last only a few minutes and provides only quick glimpses of the fish.  A good amount of instruction is dedicated to learning the subtle visual clues that, to the trained eye, clearly differentiate a black marlin from a blue from a striper - even if the fish does its best to hide.   After learning these keys to the appearance and behavior of blues, blacks, stripers, white marlin, sailfish, swordfish and spearfish, we had to identify the species in quick video snippets shot during actual cockpit chaos.

Let's just say it's not as easy as it sounds.  I plan to continue my studies using the printed and DVD support materials the course provides.

This program has no set schedule of events.  What it takes to set one of these courses up is 20 or so  interested people and a "man on the ground," said Schratwieser.   Our event, for example, was coordinated by John Riordan, who sits on the Board of Directors of United Anglers of Southern California.  This person works with the IGFA to make the arrangements for a site, get the word out, etc.  Cost per person is $150 per student, which goes to cover cost of the room, travel, refreshments, course materials and other expenses.

Those interested in setting up a training course in their area need only get the ball rolling by calling Jason Schratwieser at (954) 924-4320 or emailing