June 11, 2016; Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
For 20 years, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic has been a family affair. The tournament committee and volunteers have pitched in to help organize the event, write the rules, sell merchandise, man the weigh scales, haul fish and generally do whatever it takes to stage a world-class tournament. But there’s also an extended family involved too, one that is equally critical for the overall success. Without the strong commitment of sponsors, none of this would be possible.
It starts with the host facilities. The Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino serves as the base of operations for the Classic. With accommodations for teams and families, fine dining and gaming entertainment, it is the ideal venue for a tournament. The City of Biloxi, with considerable assistance from Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and the Visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism office, are also instrumental in promoting participation and securing the Point Cadet Marina for the tournament boats to stay.
Platinum sponsors include Miller Lite, long-time supporters Gorenflo Tackle and Marina Store, Release Marine and newcomers Smith Optics and Yeti Coolers.
The sport-fishing industry also steps up in a big way to help support the tournament. Sonny Middleton, always a stalwart, pitches in with A&M Yacht Sales, Dog River Marina and Middleton Marine. Galati Yacht Sales and Viking Yachts, Gulf Coast Yacht Group, Hatteras Yachts and engine companies Florida Detroit Diesel and MTU are also key Gold sponsors. Tim Jones, with the Gulf Coast Yacht Group, tried a new approach this year to help the teams as well as introduce potential buyers to the Hatteras GT sport-fishing line.
“We’re working with the other sponsors to make a splash,” Jones explains. “We gave away a loaded Yeti cooler at the captains meeting and we’re giving away three more at the awards ceremony, all loaded with goodies from our fellow sponsors. We had the Hatteras Hangover Clinic on the dock Thursday morning and it was a huge hit with mimosas and Bloody Marys, along with the spa services. We’re trying some new ways to interact with the teams and it’s been a big hit so far.”
So when you head to the weigh scales this afternoon to watch the boats off-load their catch, be sure to stop by the sponsor booths and check out the goods and services each is offering. They’re all part of this big, extended family and the Classic wouldn’t be such a huge success without their generous support.