March 26, 2013; Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
In sports, each new season begins with a clean slate. Rankings, win-loss records and overall accomplishments are only determined once competition has ended. The same holds true for a world-class sport-fishing contest like the MGCBC. Before a single boat leaves the dock, every team has an equal chance of catching the biggest or most fish and winning the largest payout. Still, to increase the excitement level for contestants and fans alike and to maintain a fair playing field, the Tournament Committee has changed a few rules to make this year’s tournament more competitive than ever.
“The biggest change is we’re adding swordfish as an optional entry category this year,” says Tournament Coordinator Bert Merritt. “It won’t be included in the Catch & Release Division and it’s not a tournament award. It’s just an optional pot really and a chance to win more money. We’ll have $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000-level entries for those boats that want to try their luck. We know there are some big swords out there and teams will have two nights to find ‘em. But the minimum size limit is 60 inches and there’s a maximum two-swordfish limit per boat. That should add a new wrinkle to the competition and I know the spectators will enjoy seeing a few of these special billfish come to the scales.”
Merritt says boats targeting blue marlin will also have more incentive this year. An additional $10,000 entry category is being added to both the marlin weight and release divisions. Depending on the number of boats participating, those payouts could bump the overall purses to record levels.
Another change in this year’s rules focuses on wahoo. The new rule requires boats competing in the wahoo division must also be entered at the same cash level or higher in at least one other category, such as dolphin or catch & release, to be eligible.
Junior anglers will be sharing the Golden Nugget stage this year, too. The new division will award the top junior angler title based on weight points of blue marlin exceeding the 100-inch minimum, followed by catch & release points. The heaviest meatfish, with the exception of swordfish, will determine the winner if no marlin is weighed.
Finally, for 2013 each boat is required to carefully document all billfish boated or released. Committee boats will still be designated, but their main purpose will be to distribute catch information to the fleet so smaller marlin can be released if larger fish are already boated.
“We’ll be going over the final rules at the mandatory captains’ meeting,” Merritt explains. “But these changes are really going to take us to the next level. We’ve got the best boats, anglers and crews in the Gulf so now we’ll see which ones are up to some new challenges. It’ll be very interesting to see how it all plays out.”