By Capt. Dave Lear
June 10, 2012, Biloxi, Mississippi:
The 60 boats competing in the 2012 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic slogged their way back to the Point Cadet Marina Saturday night as stormy weather continued to pummel many parts of the South. Fortunately the rain held off at the scales just long enough for the fruits of that labor to be recorded. And in true Classic fashion, the large crowd wasn’t disappointed as some monster game fish were hoisted aloft.
A very tired and sore Christopher Howat of Spring, Texas, could barely raise his arms after his epic fight aboard Birdie Time, a 66 Spencer. Howat and his crew hooked their monster blue marlin at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and fought the fish and seas for 7.5 hours. But when it was all over and weigh master Jack Teschel checked the digital scale, the effort was justified. Howat’s fish weighed 721. pounds and stretched 119.5 inches on the tape measure. That mark is now the third largest blue marlin in the history of the tournament.
“The devil’s on our side today,” a happy Capt. Russell Smith said afterwards. “We hooked it at Devil’s Tower and she really put on a show. She came right at us when she felt that hook, jumping like crazy.” The fish was caught on a green/blue Zak Attack lure with a small blue head and white eye.
Angler Robert Perez on Done Deal, scored the other qualifying marlin Saturday afternoon. His blue weighed 563.8 pounds.
The standings in the game fish categories changed quicker than the gusting wind. Tuna, wahoo and dolphin weighing at least 20 pounds were eligible and dozens of boats off-loaded their catch in hopes of scoring a big payday. One boat in particular–Conundrum–created the most dock buzz since it had reported boating a yellowfin tuna that could challenge the state record. When the weight was finally announced, however, Dan Haeuser’s fish fell just eight pounds short. At 197 pounds, it was still the top tuna overall. Chad Prough, competing aboard Crikey, a 36-foot Invincible, earned a second-place finish with his 164.5-pound yellowfin.
Woody Woods, and his team on Iona Louise outlasted a challenging field to capture the top dolphin prize. His neon-green speedster tipped the scales at 53.2 pounds.
The wahoo division was also hotly contested. Several outboard-powered center consoles were vying for the biggest catch in this category and when the scales finally closed at 9 p.m., Neil Foster and his team on Double J were the big winners with their 68.7-pound ‘hoo.
The trophies–and some really big checks–will be awarded at 10:30 Sunday morning at the host Isle Casino Hotel.