700-pound blue marlin takes Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

Georgia's Chip Temple landed this possible state-record bigeye tuna

Possible Mississippi state record bigeye tuna also weighed in.

Since 1998, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic has been bringing in the big ones. Its 13th annual tournament was this past weekend (June 11-12), and four marlin brought to the scales – three of those weighing over 535 pounds.

“Four blue marlin on a Friday night is something special for any bill fish tournament,” tournament spokesman Scott Rossman told Mississippi Sportsman.

In addition, a possible state-record bigeye tuna was brought to scales during the event.

The total purse for the events amounted to more than $1.2 million, with weigh-ins Point Cadet behind the Isle of Capri casino in Biloxi. Last year’s event was canceled due to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but 61 boats crowded the docks for the revival of the Gulf Coast staple.

Complete results can be found here.

The first marlin to be weighed was brought in by U.S. congressman Jeff Landry from Louisiana’s Third District. Landry wrestled the 536-pound blue marlin to the Venice, La., boat “C-YA.”

However, that billfish was quickly replaced by a 585.9-pounder caught by Scott Green in the Orange Beach-based “Testing the Waters,” and finally by a 702.5-pound monster from Cole Cassidy aboard the “Patron.”

Cassidy brought his fish in late Friday to walk away with the $100,000 first prize in this category.

Chip Temple of Stockbridge, Ga., was fishing from the “Jasper Town” when he caught a mammoth 203.9-pound bigeye tuna that could be a possible Mississippi State record for that species.

If certified, the fish would blow away the current 92-pound, 2.88-ounce record set May 11 by D’Iberville angler Stacy Combs.

Temple said he was awakened at 3:30 a.m. and told to grab a line with fish on. A 45-minute fight brought the giant tuna to boat after it hit a hard tail while fishing Lloyd’s Ridge. It is estimated the record fish will garner $40,000 in prize money.

Saturday turned into wahoo day, with 15 very nice hogs all over 25-pounds brought in.

Jose Reyes from Houston brought in a nice pair from the 36-foot Invincible “Papa Tonic.” One of these ’hoos placed was a 68.4-pound beast that placed first, earning Reyes an estimated $77,000 in prize money.

“We like catching Wahoo so we went after that,” Reyes said. “We caught a few along with a 300-pound marlin, which is always nice.

“You never know who is gonna bring the big hog in, you know.”

Orange Beach’s “Thunder” landed a second-place 68.1-pound wahoo caught by Chad Davis. The Venice-based 44’ Invincible “Craw Gator” put their own pair of ’hoos on the board, including a 63-pound fish from Freddie Travis and a 58.6-pounder from Mike Butler to pick up third and fourth, respectively.

Arriving Saturday night just after sunset was the “Tico Time” from Rockport, Texas, with a fat 113.5-inch 591-pound blue marlin and enough big mahi mahi to take a clean sweep of the dolphin category for a moment and place in the briefly in the Tuna.

“Tico Time”’s marlin had been caught the day before, and had a 63-inch girth. Rockport Texas native Dennis Wilkerson landed the beast after an impressive struggle, and estimated at the time that the fish weighed in excess of 585-pounds due to its measurements. At the weigh-in, he rolled up his sleeve to show the extremely close prediction written on his bicep just seconds after the weight was announced.

The largest yellowfin tuna, a 168.9-pounder, went to Steve Brown of the “Reel Worthless.” Just behind Brown in the yellow fin race came an impressive showing by Frank Kogolegbah from the Louisiana-based “C-YA” with a 151.7-pounder.

Trailing was an impressive 150.8-pound yellowfin from female angler Cindi Pasentine, who showed that big fish are not just for the boys in Mississippi waters. She caught the bruiser from the “First Choice.”

Dolphin, absent from the first day of fishing exploded Saturday and no less than 31 qualifying fish landed, the smallest being 20.3-pounds. This category changed hands every quarter hour after sundown, but the win finally went to Phillip Foster with a beautiful 41.8-pound fish.

Foster, who fished from the “Sweet Liberty,” picked up the $20,000 top prize in this category.

The weekend was just fantastic, angler Jeff Schultz of the “Mari” said.

“Good fishing; very calm, lots of big fish,” Schultz said. “All the time, more dolphin and tuna than you can imagine. We let a good 20 to 30 go that were smaller than what we wanted, and still brought some great fish in.

“It was just great weather and perfect conditions for two days of fishing.”

A marine biologist and 15 students from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab were on hand to examine the game fish entered in the event and test the animals.

Edible meat was turned over to charitable organizations.

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