One of the Gulf Coast sights that appeals most to the heart of an angler is a tuna tower swaying with the movement of Gulf of Mexico’s waters. Also eye-catching is the gleaming white of a marlin fighting chair surrounded by drag reels glistening in the sun. As luck would have it, this June brought all of this together for sportsmen and spectators alike as the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic splashed into town.
For 2 decades Biloxi has been home to the Billfish Classic. Since its inception, the Classic has drawn impressive crowds of spectators and participants alike. At Point Cadet behind what was once the Isle of Capri but is now the Golden Nugget Casino, people pack in tightly, eagerly awaiting the crackle of the loudspeaker announcing the approach of a boat with a fish onboard. As the vessel nears, eyes are fixed on the boat’s flags as they flap in the breeze, hoping to guess what the anglers have aboard before the loudspeaker comes alive once again. Before you know it, a team is heaving the fish off of the boat and hoisting it up on the scale as the crowd goes wild.
It must be tough not to feel like the equivalent of a rock star when it is your fish that evokes this type of response, but in a fishing community such as the Gulf Coast, that is basically what these anglers are. With $1,764,450.00 in prizes available in this year’s Billfish Classic and 81 participating boats, lots of rock star dreams were on the verge of becoming a reality. The fish sought in the competition include marlin, tuna, wahoo, and dolphin, and the first place fish in each category are as follows:
Clint Herring of vessel Cotton Patch brought in a blue marlin weighing 633 pounds (below); J.W. Catt of vessel Peacekeeper boasted a tuna at a weight of 179.6 pounds; Alec Newton aboard vessel The Kraken reeled in a wahoo of 96.6 pounds; and J.J. Tabor of vessel Double J came in with a dolphin weighing 41.7 pounds.
The overall winner of this year’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic was team Cotton Patch thanks to Herring’s 633-pound blue marlin, which netted them a check for $176,000. However, sometimes the categories you enter can make a lot of difference, as was the case with team Breathe Easy, which scored $232,875 for a blue marlin weighing 416.5 pounds. Full rankings for the 2016 Billfish Classic can be found here.
If you missed this year’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, chin up because there’s plenty more in store. Should you have your heart set on seeing a spectacular blue marlin, check out the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin, Florida, which runs from June 22-26, 2016. Another upcoming option is the Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf, Orange Beach, Alabama, which will be held from July 12-17, 2016.
Sprinkled around the Gulf Coast will be many more tournaments and rodeos as we move through the warmer months, suitable for adults and children alike, including the 68th annual Destin Florida Fishing Rodeo that runs through the entire month of October. Additionally, there are always next year’s coastal billfish events, and it’s never too soon to start making plans to attend or participate.
Although for now Barry Carr’s Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi State blue marlin record from 2002 still stands thanks to his 1054.6 pound whopper, that could change at any time. You never know when fishing history might be re-written, but when it is, that marlin will be the ultimate sight to behold.