June 12, 2011, Biloxi, Mississippi
By Capt. Dave Lear
Sportfishing is back to normal along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. After a long rebuilding process triggered by Hurricane Katrina, followed by last year’s cancellation due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the contestants are back and the fish are indeed biting. A field of 60 boats competing in the 15th annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic proved that point as 21 boats collected prize money at this morning’s awards ceremony at the Isle Casino and Hotel.
Patron, a 66 custom sportfisher from Port Aransas, Texas, took home the top tournament award for blue marlin by boating a 702.5-pound blue marlin on the first day of fishing. Cole Casady was the angler, guided by Capt. Joe Lyall.
In the hotly-contested tuna category, Jasper Time from Destin, Florida, held on for the tournament award. Chip Temple outlasted a 203.9-pound bigeye tuna for the top honors. That fish, if approved by state officials, would qualify for the new Mississippi record for the species.
The Texas team of Papotanic, fishing aboard a 36-foot Invincible center console, earned distinction for the largest wahoo of the event. That fish, caught by angler Jose Reyes, tipped the scales at 68.4 pounds.
Dolphin was another division that changed hands several times throughout the weigh-in yesterday. In the end, Philip Foster and his Pascagoula crew aboard Sweet Liberty, took first in the team awards.
Reel Addiction, a 56 Viking from Pensacola Beach, was the hot boat in the release division. It won that category with 2,050 points and earned a nice payout of $107,550.
Several boats earned big paydays based upon their entry into the optional cash divisions. Reel Worthless is taking home the most money–$179,205–based on their 394.6-pound blue marlin along with a couple hefty dolphin and tuna.
Tico Time also won big in the cash standings, pocketing $169,650 after boating a 591-pound blue marlin and a dolphin, plus the crew award. With credit for the largest blue marlin of the tournament, Patron earned $151,400 in the optional categories.
Total team awards, the top boat prize and optional entry awards added up to an overall purse of $1,246,300 for this year’s Classic. Tournament Director Bobby Carter was obviously pleased with the outcome.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament,” Carter said. “We had great weather, hungry fish and a lot of fun. We set a new first-day tournament mark by weighing in four blue marlin and it appears very likely another state record was broken with a big tuna. We gave a lot of money away to a lot of teams. But the biggest winners are all of our loyal anglers and crews,” Carter added. “They stuck with us and now that we’re totally back with the new marina, next year is going to be even bigger and better. We know how to have a good time here along the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast and we back that up with world-class big-game fishing.”