June 7, 2013, Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
Bolstered by great expectations, 52 gleaming sportfishers motored away from the Point Cadet Marina this morning as the 2013 Classic got underway. Some will head south, others west. All will be searching for a giant blue marlin and other gamefish worth $1.1 million in prize money.
Fishing was delayed by one day to let the seas settle after Tropical Storm Andrea moved through the central Gulf. The conditions–and strategy–were the hot topics among the crews prepping tackle and boats at the docks Thursday afternoon.
“Historically the fishing slows down a little bit after a storm like this,” says 34-year veteran skipper Kevin Frelich, who runs the Share-E, a 76 Viking Convertible based in Venice, Louisiana. “But it may be good luck for me, you never know. The wind and seas break up the weed lines that hold bait and all that floating grass fouls the lures, so it’s a little tougher. We’ll probably head south of the river because that’s always been a good area for us.” Share-E won the top catch and release honors in last year’s Classic.
Frelich’s standard spread includes proven lures in blue/white, black/purple and pink/white combinations. He also mixes in live bait at times, preferring blackfin tuna, small yellowfins or hardtails.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter,” he added. “If you’re passing over a fish when he decides to eat, he’ll eat anything.”
Biloxi native Jimmy Crochet, captain of the Conundrum, a 61 Viking Convertible from Orange Beach, Alabama, had a positive spin on Andrea’s impact.
“The storm could have helped. It could have pushed the blue water farther inshore. Sometimes after a little storm like this, it can really go off. I’m just glad we don’t have to deal with it.”
Conundrum has won money in two of the three tournaments entered prior to the Classic and set a state yellowfin tuna record several years ago. Like Share-E, Crochet and his mates will be using a mix of lures and baits.
“I love Softheads,” Crochet explained. “They’re my favorite. I have some good color variations that I mess around with, but those are secret. These guys on the other boats are my friends, but we’re all out to win. It’s pretty stiff competition. Hopefully we can pick away at e’m and get on a roll this weekend.” Crochet said he planned to fish south or southwest of Biloxi.
With runs often approaching 100 miles, the majority of the boats will remain at sea unless they have a big fish to weigh. The scales behind the Golden Nugget Casino open at 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday. All the boats have to be back in by 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
Will a grander blue marlin or record gamefish be caught this weekend? We’ll soon find out. Anything is possible in the Gulf’s wild blue yonder.