Fishing Tournament Brings Big Bucks To Biloxi

Hundreds of visiting fishermen are trying their luck on local waters and in coast casinos this weekend.

The Southern Kingfish Association tournament attracts some of the top saltwater anglers in the country. And the coast tourism industry looks forward to "reeling in" the dollars this annual event represents.

The sport features high priced, high powered boats. It's an expensive competition with fishermen who can afford it.

Jon Gundlach is a competive fisherman from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

"Our gambling on the water, sometimes it's a little more expensive than the gambling in the casinos. But then we go and have fun in the casinos," he said.

Preparing a team for the tournament requires plenty of time, along with a healthy spending account.

"You've got fuel, oil, ice, fishing supplies. Everything that goes along with it," said Gundlach.

That's just the fishing. Fishermen and their families are staying and playing on the coast.

"When we started this thing about seven or eight years ago, we started out with like five boats. Now look at us. We're over like 350," said Isle of Capri casino host, Bobby Carter.

The visitors provide a welcome boost to what is normally a slow time of year for coast tourism. These fishermen of the Southern Kingfish Association come prepared to spend lots of money at coast hotels, restaurants and casinos.

Casinos are certainly reeling in the business. When they're not testing their luck on the water, many of the anglers will be trying their luck at the tables.

"Well, we're hoping tomorrow to go out and get a big one," said Bill Wummer, as he tried his luck at the blackjack table.

He's hoping for a competitive catch and a winning hand. He expects to spend plenty of money during his stay in Biloxi.

"About two thousand. Maybe more. Depending on the casinos," he confessed.

Multiply that by several hundred and it's easy to see how the SKA tournament has an estimated one million dollar impact on the coast economy.

Although it's an expensive sport, much of the cost of high stakes tournament fishing is picked up by corporate sponsors. Big companies spend big money to support winning teams.