Mother Nature can be formidable at times, but even she couldn’t put a damper on the 2013 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic. A total of 52 boats competed in spite of the lingering effects from Tropical Storm Andrea, with fishing extended into Sunday. In typical Classic fashion, an impressive number of marlin and gamefish were brought to the scales. And equally impressive was the $1.1 million in total prize money. The platinum sponsors included the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, BP and Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum.
“So how did y’all like fishing on Sunday?” Tournament Director Bobby Carter asked before passing out checks later that evening at the awards ceremony. The cheers and laughter re-confirmed the tenacity and spirit of the Gulf’s elite big-game teams.
Pipe Dream, a 60-foot Spencer based in Port Mansfield, Texas, claimed the biggest payout for 2013 when it weighed a 439-pound blue marlin whipped by angler Corbin Bass. Sweeping first place in the team award category, crew and several optional divisions, Pipe Dream pocketed $179,825 for its efforts. Capt. Justin Drummond is the skipper of the Texas convertible.
Mollie thrilled the large crowd Saturday night by weighing in a 402.2-pound blue marlin. That catch, plus a 135.5-pound yellowfin, held on to earn the second place marlin team and crew awards, plus cash categories in the marlin and tuna divisions for a grand total of $108,605. The boat, a 66-G&S home-ported in Destin, Florida, is run by Capt. Jeff Shoults.
Angler Laurie McVay, fishing aboard Reel Addiction, a 56 Viking based in Pensacola Beach, Florida and run by Capt. Scooter Porto, got quite a work-out this year. She bested a 159-pound tuna, good for second place, a 43.9 dolphin and scored in the catch and release divisions as well. Reel Addiction is taking home $81,620 for the event.
Birdie Time, a regular on the Classic awards stage, earned $81,225 this year. The team took first and second places in several catch and release divisions. Dave Noling is the captain of this Windemere, Florida-based boat.
Bandit, a 72 Viking out of Port Aransas, Texas, scored in several cash divisions, including dolphin and the release awards. Capt. Kevin Scott and his team earned a payday of $63,855.
Earning the top boat prize and team honors for releases, Breathe Reel Deep, a 50 Ocean Yacht based in Orange Beach, Alabama, took home a check for $73,450. That performance also earned the team the new Sonny Middleton Excellence Award as the top boat for 2013. The team released two blues and three white marlin to lead the category.
Newcomer Nancy Paul made a big first impression by landing the largest yellowfin this year, a 163-pounder. Paul, fishing on Inlet Magic, a 64 Holton home-ported in North Palm Beach, Florida, earned $68,275 for that fish. Jeremy Miles is the boat captain.
Rounding out the third place marlin categories was Boonedocks, a 49 Middleton from Orange Beach. Skipper “Pip” Al-Sazra, angler Lawrence Rowland and the team earned $58,420 after weighing a blue marlin at 392.2 pounds. Badonkadonk, which had the third largest marlin caught by Corey Racca at 388.5 pounds, won $17,010.
You Never Know and Done Deal were the other big cash winners in the tuna optional categories. You Never Know earned $33,665 for its 140.5-pound yellowfin, while Done Deal won $33,750. Hot, Black & Sticky didn’t go home empty-handed either, winning $24,570 for a dolphin weighing 40.1 pounds.
Testing the Water and angler Scott Green won $20,250 for the top wahoo, a 86.2-pound fish, while Intense and angler Neal Foster captured second- and third-place prizes for the species with fish weighing 84 and 75.7 pounds. That effort earned the team $29,825.
A Work of Art, Gunslinger, Reel Worthless, Patience, Four Reel and Reel Fuelish pocketed cash awards based on different optional categories as well.
“We had our challenges this year, but once again it was a very successful event,” Carter said afterwards. “Some really quality fish came to the scales, we gave away a lot of money and everyone had a great time. That’s what it’s all about here on the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast and we look forward to seeing everybody again in 2014.”
The 2014 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic will be held June 2-8 at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Biloxi. To learn more about the event, please visit mgcbc.com.