Outdoors

Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic celebrates 20 years

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST BILLFISH CLASSIC 
 David Pippin of the Boat Miss Orleans set a Blue Marlin state record at the 1997 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.
MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST BILLFISH CLASSIC David Pippin of the Boat Miss Orleans set a Blue Marlin state record at the 1997 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.

In 1997, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic was created to attract big-time anglers to the Coast.

The 20th annual Classic will be held next weekend at the Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi.

The Billfish Classic is considered one of the nation's best bluewater tournaments.

"We had no idea the tournament would grow this big," Tournament Director Bobby Carter said. "We wanted to get people to come to the Casino and fish here. We have a lot to offer. They have these tournaments in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana, why can't we have one?"

Carter, who has worked with the Billfish Classic since its inception, has a simple formula for the tournament's success.

"It's the hospitality that makes this tournament great," Carter said. "It's a great atmosphere. You can do more than fish. We have a golf tournament. People bring their families and spend a week here."

Over 70 boats are expected to compete in the two-day fishing tournament, but events start Tuesday. Anglers from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Key West, Fla., leads a strong field batting for prizes. The total payout for competitors will be more than $1 million for the fourth straight year.

Fish categories include blue marlin, tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Prizes are awarded by the largest fish per category and are given out for first, second and third place.

Katie Gonsoulin of the Done Deal crew caught the biggest Blue Marlin at the 2015 Billfish Classic, a 587.3 pound blue marlin to earn a $236,050 check for her boat.

Boats start arriving Sunday.

The Classic has produced eight state of Mississippi records. Two records were set during its first year: blue marlin at 631.8 pounds and 917.4 pounds. Barry Carr of Georgia caught a blue marlin that weighed 1,054 pounds in 2012.

Here's a schedule of the events:

-A dock party will be held on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

-A Go Deep Scramble will be held Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gulf Hills Country Club.

-Registration for the event starts June 8 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Golden Nugget ballroom.

-A mandatory captains’ meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Golden Nugget Grand ballroom, followed by the Captain’s Banquet at 6:30 p.m.

-A Miss Billfish Classic bikini contest will be held Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. In the Golden Nugget H20 Pool & Bar. 

-After a boat parade at noon Thursday from the Point Cadet Marina past the Beau Rivage, fishing begins and concludes on Saturday at 9 p.m.  Scales open Friday and Saturday at 3 p.m. and stay open until 8 p.m. All boats must check in by Saturday at 9 p.m. 

-An event ceremony will be held June 12 at 10:30 a.m. in the Golden Nugget Ballroom.

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