By Capt. Dave Lear
June 10, 2012, Biloxi, Mississippi:
Another Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is in the books and this year’s edition again proved why this tournament is one of the top contests on the big-game fishing circuit. Twenty-three boats among the 60-boat field claimed a share of the $1.1 million in total prize money. The third largest blue marlin in Classic history was boated after an epic 7.5-hour battle and a yellowfin tuna that nearly broke the state record was also landed. Tournament Director Bobby Carter offered this assessment as he greeted the big crowd at Sunday’s awards ceremony at the host Isle Casino Hotel.
“It’s been a helluva week, hasn’t it?” he asked. Cheers, whistles and loud applause proved to be a hearty confirmation. “I’d like to thank all the teams for fishing with us again this year and for making this such a great event. I’d also like to thank our wonderful sponsors who make everything possible and to my tournament crew for all the hard work. Y’all are the best!”
Angler Christopher Howat, Capt. Russell Smith and the rest of the team aboard Birdie Time, a Spencer 66, were the biggest winners overall. With tournament awards and optional jackpots, they are taking $225,100 home after boating the largest fish in 2012, a 721.7-pound blue marlin. Robert Perez and his team aboard Done Deal, a 56 Viking, pocketed $137,940 in overall prize money for the second place blue, a 563.8-pounder. Rounding out third place in the marlin division, Robert Burrough and the crew aboard Quick Time scored $46,700 for a blue weighing 389.1 pounds.
Crikey, one of the smaller boats competing, took home big money by weighing their 164.5-pound yellowfin. Because they were entered in optional categories, that catch earned $94,140 in prize money. Carol Castillo had entered several tuna optional categories and that decision paid off when she weighed in a 164.5-pounder, caught on Badonkadonk, a 60 Weaver. That tuna was worth $76,110 overall.
Double J pocketed $50,520 for the biggest wahoo (68.7 pounds) and the team aboard Iona Louise took several categories with dolphin weighing 53.2 and 40.8 pounds. Those fish earned $76,110 in overall prize money.
C-Ya, a perennial Classic contender, earned a $64,980 check by taking several prizes in the catch-and-release division. Share-E, a 76 Viking, earned the most release points overall and $22,950 in prize money.