BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The 15th annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is now underway, with a prize purse of $1.4 million. But if you want to play in this high stakes fishing tournament, you'd better be prepared to pay a lot of money up front for a chance to win big.
In this tournament, even the bait doesn't come cheap.
"Normally, we can spend up to $250 on Ballyhoo and Spanish Mackerel and stuff like that," fisherman Louie Porto said. "Usually that's a tournaments worth. I mean, a season can be upwards of $2,000."
Winning this tournament will take the patience of a Saint. The 70 participating boats come in all sizes, but there's one thing they all share: a big price tag.
"There's some other boats here, maybe a little bit smaller than mine, but being 45 foot and $350,000, that doesn't even touch some of the boats," fisherman Tim Wold said. "There's five, six, seven, $8 million boats here."
Entering this tournament takes serious money. There's a $5,000 entry fee and side bets, called a Calcutta, that can reach as high as $50,000. But if you win, the rewards are great. Just ask fisherman Casey Jones.
"The boat I was fishing on, the Bounty Hunter, we took first place in Blue Marlin and first place in Tuna and we got a check for $356,000," Jones said.
Aboard the Mary P, Daryl Pennington enjoys a cup of morning coffee. It helps calm the nerves after spending $25,000 on fuel. Hitting the high seas won't exactly be rough for Daryl and his crew though. His boat is like a floating palace. Every luxury imaginable is on board, from electronics, to beds, not to mention the view. Even if he doesn't win, he said this life can't be beat.
"You ride around, a boat ride all day, drink beer, listen to Jimmy Buffett and catch a fish once in awhile."
And if you catch the big fish, the bragging rights, not to mention the cash, will all be yours.
The tournament wraps up Saturday night. The scales are open 4-11pm on Friday and Saturday, and it's free of charge for the viewing public. The event is being held at the Pt. Cadet Marina, right behind the Isle Casino Resort.