BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Coast tourism industry is getting a big boost this week with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic getting underway.
Multi-million dollar boats have pulled into Biloxi's Point Cadet Marina with big prize money on the line.
The boats are lined up, the gear is ready to. Teams are getting ready for the 22nd annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic fishing tournament. The competitors come from near and far. Some came from as close as Orange Beach, Alabama, and others as far away as Hawaii.
The boats are at Point Cadet Marina behind Golden Nugget Casino. This event has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. "The first year, I want to say we had 12 boats and now we have 120 boats. These boats are from all over the Gulf Coast. We have a boat in from Costa Rica, one from Hawaii and several from the east coast," said event director Bobby Carter.
Last year 2.4 million dollars in prize money was handed out. This has become the premier billfish tournament in the Gulf of Mexico and one of the top such events in the world.
The Billfish Classic has become a major tourism event, bringing attention to the coast and generating significant revenue. "It says a lot about the coast. One of the main reasons they come here, not only because of the incredible fishery, we have hotels, restaurants, casinos, gas stations, all the hospitality. Everyone benefits and they like the way they're treated here," Carter said.
The teams go out Thursday Morning and fish all over the Gulf of Mexico, from Texas to Florida and all points in between. With pride and so much prize money on the line, competitors take the fishing very seriously.
"All of us are friends on the dock. Once we leave we're true competitors. Once we get back we see who are friends again," said fishing competitor Robert Doggett.
Scales open at Point Cadet Marina Friday from 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday's awards ceremony is a thrilling event for the teams.
The awards ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning behind Golden Nugget Casino at the Point Cadet Marina.