June 12, 2011, Biloxi, Mississippi
By Capt. Dave Lear
It’s a good thing tournament officials at the Classic use erasable markers when writing down the names of the anglers and weights of their fish. That’s because the lead changed constantly throughout Saturday evening as scores of eligible fish came to the scales. By the time the final one was weighed just before 1 a.m., nearly 100 fish caught by two-thirds of the 60-boat fleet had been recorded. The lightning and thunder, which threatened briefly but never disrupted the proceedings, only served as a soundtrack for the exciting conclusion of this 15th annual event.
Tico Time made the biggest splash as it waited until the last day to weigh its prize. Angler Dennis Wilkerson of Spring, Texas, hooked a blue marlin around 1 p.m. Friday afternoon and fought the fish for several hours in a battle in the Green Canyon. After a five-hour marathon, the blue came in tail-wrapped. With its 113-inch length and 61-inch girth, the hefty blue registered 591 pounds when the total was announced by Weigh-master Jack Teschel. That score vaulted Tico Time into second place on the blue marlin leader board.
“We knew we couldn’t make it back in on Friday before the scales closed,” a happy Wilkerson explained Saturday afternoon. “But I would have slept a lot better last night if I’d known the exact weight of that fish.” Tico Time also weighed three dolphin and a yellowfin tuna that briefly held top positions in the standings. But not for long.
It was Chip Temple’s turn in the chair aboard Jasper Time and the Stockbridge, Georgia angler took full advantage of it. Temple bested a monster tuna after a 45-minute battle after the fish ate a live hardtail bait (bluerunner) in the wee hours of the morning. For his efforts Temple is likely the new state Mississippi record-holder, as his big eye tuna tipped the scales at a whooping 203.9 pounds.
“Kudos to the crew,” a tired yet happy Temple said after the weight was announced to the cheers of hundreds of on-lookers. “I was lucky enough to get the wake-up call in the middle of the night to reel it in. This crew always manages to get on big fish.”
Cindi Pasentine, a Classic regular for several years, also shared the tuna spotlight, albeit briefly. The lady angler outlasted a yellowfin tuna that weighed in at 150.8 pounds aboard First Choice. Reel Worthless and C-Ya also made a late mark on the tuna leader board, weighing in yellowfins at 168.9 and 151.7 pounds, respectively.
“It was very exciting. We thought it was a marlin at first. My guys would have never put me on it if they’d known it was a big tuna,” she said.
Outboard-powered center console boats were well represented in the close wahoo division. Team Papatonic, a 36 Invincible out of Houston, Texas, claimed the top prize after boating a ‘hoo at 68.4 pounds. Thunder, a 36 Invincible, captured second place with a 68.1-pound fish, while Finatic, a 36 Yellowfin from nearby Ocean Springs rounded out the standings with a 64.3-pound entry.
Philip Foster, fishing aboard Sweet Liberty, took first-place dolphin honors with his 41.8-pound fish. Nana’s Girls was second, with a 39.8-pounder, followed by Quick Time.
Reel Addiction, home-ported in Pensacola, Florida, took top honors in the release division, based on overall points.
The 15th annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic wraps up with the awards ceremony later this morning. More than $1.3 million in prize money will be distributed to the winning boats.