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Billfish Classic reels in fishermen from across the country with big fish, bigger prizes

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:40 AM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Hundreds of fishermen from across the country are on Mississippi Gulf Coast this week hoping to toss out a line and reel in a large cash prize.

With more than a million dollars up for grabs in prize money, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic been called the Super Bowl of angler fishing. The annual event is back once again this year in South Mississippi with over 100 teams set to participate.

After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, anglers are eager to get out on the water and compete.

”We just got our masks off and we’re ready to fish, ready to get out there,” said Tanner Keesee, who is on the Code Blue angler team.

Between inclement weather and a global pandemic. the renowned tournament has been unable to thrive.

”The last two years have been devastating to us,” said event organizer Bobby Carter. “So this year is phenomenal. The weather is going to be great. We have had 120 boats show up.”

Teams of fishermen are coming from near and far, with many traveling across multiple states to get here while others just had to travel across the bridge.

”Man, we love it. We are in our backyard,” said Ryeley Jacobs with the Blue Print Sport Fishing team, which is based out of Ocean Springs. “It took us about five minutes to move the boat over here, and we have some of the best teams in the country here to compete. So we’re excited.”

No matter where they call home, anglers are enjoying the energy and atmosphere.

”I am not from around here but everyone has made me feel welcome,” said Nick Sehlesner with the Fins Up team. “All these boats, all these people, this man and I are going to live it up, have a lot of fun and catch a lot of fish this weekend.”

But while the fishing is fun, these teams are keeping their eye on the prize

Millions of dollars up for grabs in prize money but one of the most sought after fish teams are vying for is a swordfish, which will pay out more than $300,000 in prize money if someone beats the state record. Another fish the anglers are hoping to reel in is a blue marlin, which could win them up to $100,000.

On Wednesday, crews spent the day making final preparations, getting all their gear on the boat and making sure they’re ready to reel in the big one.

”We’re blessed to be here, great people,” said Jeffrey Stolarz, who is on Team Dirt Pit. “With our crowd, the only guarantee is a good time but we are going to try and catch a slammer.”

The tournament officially kicks off Thursday morning with boats leaving the harbor at 11 a.m.

The public is encouraged to come out and watch the teams bring in their catches. The scales behind the Golden Nugget will be open from 3-8 p.m. on Friday and 3-6 p.m. on Saturday. An awards ceremony will happen Sunday morning at the Golden Nugget.

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