By Capt. Dave Lear
June 9, 2017; Biloxi, Mississippi:
Offshore, the action is underway with several swordfish and at least two blue marlin boated amongst the 120 teams competing in the 2017 MGCBC. Scales open at 3 p.m. on Friday and stay open until 8. They re-open again at the same time on Saturday and all boats with fish to weigh must be in by 6 p.m. Based on the early catch reports, including multiple releases, the pace will be fast and furious from here on out.
There’s plenty of activity behind the scenes as well. Tournament volunteers are busy setting up the scales and scoring tent. Computers, boxes of forms and t-shirts have to be moved into position. The sound system, lights and digital scales all need to be tested. Radios have to be manned and boat/fish handlers are standing by, ready to offload the catch for weighing. It’s all part of an elaborate network of volunteers who coordinate and execute the massive undertaking required for a premier tournament of this magnitude.
“The majority of our crew has been with the tournament since its inception,” says Chris McLellan, tournament co-coordinator. “They all know when to do what, how to do it or who to ask. It’s a well-oiled machine. For example, my nephew Andrew McLellan has been working with us since he was 10 years old, stuffing boat buckets. Now he’s one of the dudes counting the optional money entries. Everyone shows up on Sunday so we’re ready before the boats leave the docks. And once the fish start coming in, we shift into overdrive.”
“Everyone on the team is multi-talented,” adds co-coordinator Bert Merritt. “They count money and register boats and then offload fish, enter data and score. We have a crew of 30 strong at the scales and another group handling merchandise sales. Dr. Jim Franks has another team collecting fish samples for important data. The marina crew pumps fuel and delivers ice. Everyone has to be flexible and ready to adapt. A lot of details go into this one week, from organizing to advertising, socializing to telling fish lies. We’ve pulled it off for 20 years now, so we’ve got the formula down pat.”
“This tournament is possible because of a joint effort by everyone,” says MGCBC Director Bobby Carter. “All of our volunteer staffers have their own expertise. It is a year-round campaign, from promotion and organization to set-up, the actual event and then the break-down. We’re celebrating 20 years because this really is a total team effort and it wouldn’t happen without everybody’s help.”
So as you watch those winning fish being hoisted aloft, read about the big one that got away or admire photos on social media, remember the teams competing are the stars. But the stage wouldn’t be complete without the entire supporting cast.