Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith owned by Dennis Pastentine, won the top honors in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, which concluded Sunday evening at the Point Cadet Marina. Led by Capt. Robert Doggett, anglers Josh Jones and Mike Akue and the team scored 1,800 points in the billfish catch and release division to take the overall tournament award. They also won optional prize money in the tuna and dolphin divisions for an overall payout of $116,675. Relentless Pursuit calls Venice, Louisiana, its home port.
No blue marlin were weighed during the tournament, which convened during inclement weather offshore. The original field included 115 boats, but only 25 opted to compete in the heavy seas. Conditions were compounded by massive amounts of flood water pouring out the Mississippi River and floating debris, which made navigation difficult. Several impressive game fish catches were tallied, nonetheless.
Easy Rider II, a 61 Buddy Davis based in Galveston, Texas and skippered by Capt. Leslie Van Norman, was the second place catch and release team. The 1,200 points accrued, plus optional entries, earned the Texas anglers $28,382 in prize money. Pullin Wire, another 61 Davis from Panama City, Florida, also scored 1,200 points, good for the third place tournament award. Brennen Moore is at the helm of Pullin Wire. Sancha, a 68 Viking from Port Aransas, Texas, and Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking from Grand Isle, Louisiana, won optional money for releasing marlin.
The game fish categories were tightly contested with the leaderboard changing several times during the weigh-ins. Owner/angler Robert Burroughs on Quick Time, a 70 Viking from Orange Beach, Alabama, took home $44,474 with the top tuna, optional dolphin and wahoo. The 142.87-pound yellowfin was the biggest fish weighed. Capt. Shelby Johnson is Quick Time’s skipper.
Deb Hebert, fishing aboard her 57 Gillman, Doctors Orders, took second-place tuna honors with a 137.16 yellowfin. Angler Toby Berthelot whipped the third-largest tuna at 128.49 pounds on Get Reel, a 60 Hatteras. The team also added optional dolphin and tuna for a $35,559 payout.
In the tournament dolphin category, Andre Feucht on Split Decision, a 37 Freeman (Capt. Scott Robichaux), wound in the biggest bull, tipping the scales at 35.8 pounds, worth $10,535. Iona Louise (68 Hatteras), with Tami Hudson in the chair, scored the second heaviest dolphin at 35.72 pounds. Combined with an optional wahoo, owner Joe Hudson, Capt. Clip Hopkins and the team earned $26,816. Angler Abbigal Weidenharf and Team Snafu, a 74 Viking, were third place in the dolphin division with a 35.44-pound entry.
Josh Collier and Intense owner Neal Foster captured the first- and second-place wahoo aboard a 39 Contender center console. Their fish weighed 89.83 and 59.68 pounds, respectively, good for a $53,056 payout.
“It was a very tough week due to circumstances beyond our control,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “I’d like to thank everyone who participated and I’d also like to thank my team for pulling this one off.”
The 2020 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, hosted by Golden Nugget Biloxi, is scheduled for June 1-7, 2020. For more information, please visit: www.mgcbc.com
Photo courtesy of FredSalinas.com