May 2, 2016; Biloxi, Mississippi: The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is just over a month away, but one registered contestant has already won big. A Work of Art, a 92-foot Viking owned by Art Favre of Orange Beach, Alabama, was the Golden Opportunity winner in a drawing held May 1 at the host facility, the Golden Nugget Casino Resort in Biloxi. Favre and his team, led by Capt. Ronnie Woodruff, were among the early entries for the prize drawing.
The Golden Opportunity package includes 500 gallons of fuel, free dockage during the tournament, hotel lodging, restaurant gift card, spa package, pool cabana, team clothing from MGCBC sponsors, a giclée print, plus a case of Captain Morgan rum. The 20th anniversary Classic kicks off June 7 in Biloxi and features the top big-game sport-fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We’re looking forward to a fantastic event to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “We have more than 70 boats pre-registered, which means we’ll have more than $1.5 million prize money on the line and some of the top teams in the world competing, including those from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia as well as all across the Southeast. With that caliber of competition I’m positive we’ll have some monster fish coming to the scales at the Point Cadet Marina on Friday and Saturday nights.”
The late Bill McLellan, founder of Marlin magazine and a tireless promoter of the sport, initially pitched the idea of a tournament to Carter and the first edition was held in 1997 with 60 boats. It has steadily grown every year since. In 2015, 18-year-old Katie Gonsoulin won top honors for her 587.3-pound blue marlin fishing aboard her dad John Gonsoulin’s Done Deal, another Viking. Several records have been set at Biloxi over the last two decades, including the Gulf’s largest blue marlin ever, a 1,054.6-pounder boated by Barry Carr aboard Sea Wolff in 2002. As part of the 20th anniversary celebration, Carter added a new wrinkle to this year’s rules.
“The Classic has always been a family affair, so for 2016 all junior anglers 16 years and younger can fish for free aboard registered boats,” Carter explains. “And they will be eligible in all tournament categories, not just the junior angler award.”
The festivities begin with a dock party Tuesday, followed by the Go Deep golf scramble the next morning. Wednesday evening features the captains’ meeting and kick-off banquet and concludes with the always-popular Miss Billfish Classic bikini contest. Fishing begins immediately after Thursday’s noon boat parade. The scales open at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday and are free to the public with live entertainment, sponsor booths, food and beverages.
For more information on the 2016 Classic or to register, please visit mgcbc.com