A Random Image

The History of Jess Sams

The year 1938 was a difficult one for Australia. The Great Depression had bitten deeply into the nation’s economy and psyche, but despite some welcome signs of recovery, there seemed to be pessimism abroad. The general feeling was not helped by reports coming out of Europe. It was probable that the world would once again be plunged into war, just 20 years after the bloodbath of the Great War (now called World War 1). A number of prominent Sydney anglers were well placed to push proposals for an international angling competition, embracing both salt and freshwater species, as part of the celebrations. Clive Firth, a prominent businessman and managing director of a national pharmaceutical company, had come to the fore as a leader of the sport over the preceding four or five years. Well connected in business and NSW government circles, he was assisted by others, including the well-known fisheries scientist Theo Roughley. Mr Firth and his committee convinced the government that such an event would help to consolidate the advances in the saltwater side of the sport, and provide valuable publicity and tourism opportunities for both the state and country. Invitations were extended nationally and internationally for anglers to compete in the International Big Game Angling Contest, to take place in Australian waters up to 50 miles offshore. 1938 Jess sams TrophyAll anglers had to be a member of a recognised Australia fishing club. The contest ran from January 1 to April 23, 1938 with trophies to the value of 1000 pounds on offer across a number of categories. On February 27, Mrs Jess Sams (nee Millard) of Ulladulla overtook the field of Australian anglers with a 330lb striped marlin, which remained unbeaten and secured her the principal trophy for the heaviest gamefish. Mrs Sams received an avalanche of attention and publicity with her capture, particularly for her triumph in what was, at the time, an almost exclusively male sport. The fish was also an Australian record which still stands today, on 60kg line class. Mrs Sams born Jess Millard at Milton NSW in 1897, married Captain Archie Sams, a ship’s captain, in 1926. In an interview in 1938 Jess spoke about how she would have liked to fish onboard her husband’s boat known as Lady Jess, but unfortunately, her husband had charted the vessel to Mr Anthony Horden. Jess was faced with the prospect of now finding another boat to fish from. She had joined two game fishing club’s known as Illawarra and Milton Ulladulla GFC and now summoned enough courage to name her first day out. At Ulladulla, she chartered the 30ft launch Tory (owned by the Puglisi brothers) and set out with them at 6am on February 27, 1938 in beautiful weather conditions. Just before lunch that day off Brush Island something had taken her bait. She had 150 yards of line out before she decided to strike and strike she did. Jess Sams Marlin record catch 1938To her amazement a beautiful stripe marlin leaped from the water. This was Jess’s first marlin and she was concerned about fishing with a 6 inch reel which only had 350 yards of line and a light trace. After an exhausting fight to the finish the fish was brought onboard and they set back to Ulladulla.  On arrival, the marlin was weighed and turned the scales at 330lb. Jess then discovered a number of obstacles to overcome:
  1. The fish was not weighed on official scales and was facing the possibility of being disqualified and
  2. There was no provision in the rules for women anglers to win the major trophy.
It seems that such a possibility had not been considered. After many urgent phone calls to the organising committee in Sydney it was finally established that her claim was acceptable. In the early hours of the morning Jess and her husband took her catch to Jervis Bay. The fish was roped to the roof of their car and ultimately (after being 24 hours out of the water) had it officially recorded and weighed. 75 years later Jess Sam’s marlin capture still remains the lady’s Australian 130lb (60kg) record, one of the oldest on the Game Fishing Association Australia chart. To this day, the Ulladulla Game Fishing Club holds the annual Jess Sam’s Game Fishing Tournament in her honour. Image: Jess Sams and her 1938 catch courtesy of Cathy Dunn www.ulladulla.info
Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email