BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The 23rd annual Billfish Classic had the odds stacked against it. Bad weather and fresh water intrusion made it rough for the tournament and competitors who rode out the turbulent waters.
Only 25 boats participated in a year that was expected to draw about 120, which would have produced a record purse of about $3 million. This year, the total payout was only $500,000.
But while the elements were tough, so were the anglers who stayed the course.
“We started on Thursday in the terrible weather,” said Scott Robichaux, owner of the boat Split Decision. “It didn’t work quite so well on Thursday."
Robichaux said fresh water intrusion also gave his team some headaches.
“There was the risk of running too close in waters from the high water in the river pushing all the logs, trees out,” he said. “We encountered several pieces where we had to detour and go around.”
Tami Hudson and her team on their boat, Iona Louise, had a similar experience with bad weather.
“It was a lot,” she said. “But we’re a team and we went with it, and each of us kept our spirits up as we were bouncing around and getting tossed around but it’s worth it.”
Both competitors, who were the first to come in on the last day of the Billfish Classic fishing tournament Sunday, featured some pretty hefty catches.
Director Bobby Carter admitted the tournament took a hit. Carter was happy, nevertheless.
“Not from a monetary standpoint, but the way everybody came together, they understood the situation," he said. "They’re very supportive of what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish, that they cannot wait to come back next year, and they will be here.”
That includes Robichaux, whose strategy for a bad-weather fishing is simple.
“Not giving up,” he said. “You can ask my crew here, who endured some pretty rough seas and lightning and a lot of rain, even a little bit of hail.”
First-place winners were Robert Burroughs for tuna; Josh Collier for wahoo; Andre Feucht for dolphin fish; and the tournament champion was Relentless Pursuit with 1,800 catch-and-release points to earn $116,000.