June 5, 2014; Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
Against a backdrop of bluebird skies and steamy summer temperatures the fleet of 53 sportfishers motored away from the Point Cadet Marina this morning and into the aqua blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Their quest? Powerful blue marlin and other game fish that are worth more than $1 million in prize money to the crews that capture them as the 2014 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic gets underway.
“We’re just going to run out there and do our thing,” said Capt. Michael Roberto, skipper of Reel Fire, a 70 Viking homeported in Biloxi. “Our normal routine has been working pretty well, so we’ll just stick to it. I sure wish I knew the magic secret to fishing out there, but I don’t.”
Well, that’s not exactly true, but Roberto is a fisherman after all, so he’s expected to stretch things a bit. In fact, Reel Fire is in the winner’s circle more often than not and this family team always seems to find the big ones. That task might be a little tougher this week due to unusual conditions, however.
“We’ve been battling floating grass for the last two months. It drives my mate crazy, because it’s constantly fouling the hooks. There hasn’t been much current at all, which is a huge factor in concentrating all that grass,” Roberto adds.
Reel Fire typically pulls a mixed spread of skirted ballyhoo and lures. Roberto doesn’t think colors really matter but he leaves the choice to his mate.
“It all comes down to action,” he explains. “If the action is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s black, purple, red, white or polka dots. Plastic isn’t the normal marlin diet, but sometimes they will eat it. Our last trip we caught one on a lure and one on live bait. There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s just being in the right spot at the right time.”
Art Favre, owner of A Work of Art, a 76 Viking based in Orange Beach, Alabama, hadn’t settled on a spot yet, but he wasn’t sharing the probable destinations, either.
“We’re going to be somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico between Florida and Texas,” he said with a sly grin. “And we’re going to do our best to find THE fish.” Favre said he hasn’t been seeing much bait offshore.
“There have been very few dolphin and tuna caught the last couple weeks,” he added. “With the cold winter we had, I just think everything is a little behind yet. But I hope it all kicks off this weekend.”
The weigh scales at the Point Cadet Marina open at 3 p.m. Friday and close at 8 p.m. Afterwards, Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters will be jammin’ at the H2o Pool Bar at the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort. All events are free and open to the public.
“That was one of the smoothest starts we’ve ever had,” said Tournament Coordinator Bert Merritt. “Everybody checked in and the parade down the bay was impressive. Now we just need some fish and I predict we’re going to see some big ones.”