A record 120 boats arrived this weekend to catch a big fish at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.
Big fish bit with records falling, especially in the swordfish category.
Coming into the weekend, the Mississippi swordfish record was a 75-pounder caught Aug. 26, 2007, by Lorenzo Owen. On Friday, two boats brought home swordfish that surpassed the Mississippi mark. Saturday, by 7 p.m, two other anglers had weighed in swordfish in excess of 200 pounds and Donnie Jackson and the Sea Cruiser’s 219-pound catch, which led after Friday, was no longer in the top three.
As of 7 p.m., Scott Cothren, of Pay Dirt, held the record with a 242.54 pound swordfish, besting Paul Eberly Jr. and Change Order’s catch of 230.76 brought in earlier Saturday. Scott Bivona of the Sea Cruiser Tails Up was third with a catch of 219.73 pounds.
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Focus is on the Swordfish category this year as the winner stands to take home $325,000 in cash and other prizes, depending on the equipment used and the bonus money earned.
Fishing was tight in other categories as well. Jeff Friedman, aboard the Aires, led the Marlin category with a fish of 668.77 pounds.
“I will take that anytime in any tournament,” said Aires captain Russell Craft. However, Craft and his crew were worried when the Mollie weighed its big marlin Saturday. The Mollie’s marlin was just a shade smaller than Friedman’s catch, coming in at 654.52 pounds, both of which beat last year’s 633-pound winner.
In third was Dana Foster of Born2Run with a weight of 563.92 pounds. Craft was confident his fish would stand in first as no other captain had reported a larger fish. However, he noted the other captains could be sandbagging their catch.
In the Tuna category, Dylan Doubleday of the Makaira held first with a catch of 176.55 pound. Vince Campo, above the Sea La Vie, was second at 171.84 pounds. Cole Wagoner, above Team FM, was third at 164.34 pounds.
In the Wahoo category, Jim Williams held the top slot with a catch of 57.82 pounds. Dirt Pit’s Cramer Pierce was second at 52.25 pounds and Charlie Thomas, also on the Dirt Pit, was third at 37.69 pounds.
Craft believed fishing was slow Friday and Saturday, with the Aries bringing in only one marlin Friday, a 300-pounder they released because it was too small. After catching the first marlin, the Aries started back to Biloxi, hooking the tournament winner about 130 miles away from the Coast.
“When he jumped out the water, we knew he was a big fish,” Friedman said.
It took Friedman 30 minutes to pull the marlin to the boat and the crew about another 10-to-15 minutes to get the marlin into the boat.
“It wasn’t a hard fight,” Friedman said, ‘but it was steady.”