By Capt. Dave Lear
Tick, tock. Tick, tock. The final countdown is on for the 2014 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, which officially begins Tuesday, June 3. The Dock Party/Seafood Jambalaya at 6 p.m. at the Point Cadet Marina is sponsored by F.E.B. Distributing, Coors Light, Gorenflo’s, Louisiana Fish Fry Products and Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum.
The schedule really gets cranking on Wednesday, June 4. For starters, all Bubba Watson wannabes will hit the links at Shell Landing when the Go Deep Golf Scramble tees off at 9 a.m. The golf tourney is also sponsored by Gosling’s Rum. The fishing tournament registration opens at 1 p.m. in the Golden Nugget Grand Ballroom and continues until 9 p.m.
At 6 p.m. the mandatory captains’ meeting gets started in the ballroom, followed immediately by the Captains and Anglers Banquet. The newly-remodeled Golden Nugget Casino and Resort Biloxi is the banquet host, as well as the Classic’s Platinum Sponsor.
There are only a couple rules changes for this year’s contestants. The most notable is the weigh scales hours. The scales open at 3 p.m. both Friday and Saturday and close at 8 p.m. On Saturday night, all boats must be in by 8 p.m. and those with fish to weigh must be in line inside the designated markers.
Eligible species again this year include blue marlin, tuna, wahoo and dolphin. Eligible blue marlin must measure at least 100 inches from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. All game fish must weigh at least 20 pounds minimum.
In the catch and release division successful releases of blue and white marlin, sailfish and spearfish earn points. Video verification of the catch is required and the release footage must be clear with the designated identifier to ensure proper scoring.
Teams intending to enter the optional tournament category for wahoo must also register in another category or species at the same level or higher. For example, if a boat enters the $1,000 division for wahoo, it must also enter another $1,000 division or higher, in one of the following categories: Blue marlin, catch and release, tuna or dolphin.
Tournament officials also remind boats that a federal Highly Migratory Species permit is required but won’t have to be shown at registration. Teams can start fishing at 12:01 p.m. Thursday, immediately following the boat parade.
“Right now we have 65 boats pre-registered,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter, “And I anticipate we’ll have a field of more than 70 boats by the time registration closes Wednesday. I’ve already called in the order for big hungry fish, so we’re ready to go. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone next week and some phenomenal fishing as the Classic’s Golden Nugget era gets underway.”