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19th Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic: Dock Party Kickoff

19th Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic: Dock Party Kickoff
19th Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic: Dock Party Kickoff

BILOXI, Miss. – There’s nothing like mounds of steaming crawdads, jambalaya and ice cold beer to get a crowd in a party mood. Good food and libations aside, the atmosphere was definitely upbeat as captains, mates and other participants converged on the docks at the Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi last week to kick off the 2015 Classic. The Dock Party was sponsored by F.E.B. Distributing/Coors Light, Gorenflo’s and Louisiana Fish Fry Products.

“Fishing has been really good the last two weeks, despite the wind,” says Laurie Pitalo, co-owner of Gorenflo’s Tackle and Marina Store, a tournament sponsor from the beginning. “There have been a lot of blue and white marlin tagged and released and some nice tuna and wahoo caught too. Dolphin up to 30 pounds also were brought in last weekend.”

As of early Wednesday morning, 61 boats were signed up to fish this year’s event. Several others were watching the weather reports and were expected to join in. Registration begins at 11 a.m. in the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort.

“It’s been really windy the last couple of weeks, but the weather forecast for the next several days looks really good,” Pitalo adds. “We’re definitely going to pick up some more boats.”

Now in its 20th season, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is one of the premier big-game fishing tournaments in the world, drawing boats from throughout the central Gulf and as far away as Texas and South Florida. The competition is always stiff with this much talent present and so much prize money on the line. The overall purse is expected to top $1 million dollars again in 2015.

“It’s been three weeks since the offshore season started and bigger fish keep coming in,” Pitalo says. “Based on what I’ve seen the last couple of weeks, I’d say it’s going to take an 800-pounder to win it this year.”

Will she be right? The Classic has produced multiple trophies over the years, including a grander blue marlin and a couple record tuna. Angler Deb Hebert outlasted an 843.7-pound blue in 2014 while fishing aboard Iona Louise.

Starting Thursday at noon, the smiles and laughs will be replaced by game faces as the fleet fans out into the Gulf in search of that one winning fish. But as lines go into the water, you can bet there will be plenty of positive vibes going out as well.

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