Panama City Beach, Fla. - The Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament made history as 47 boats headed out to fish in the first major all-release billfish tournament on the Gulf Coast. The highly-anticipated tournament welcomed more than 10,000 attendees at Bay Point Marina July 9-13 to enjoy the live entertainment, an artist colony, local food, sponsor displays and, of course, the Friday and Saturday night weigh-ins.
Life is Good took top honors in the Catch and Release category with three blue and one white marlin released for 2050 points. The team walked away with $210,960. Second place went to Wynsong with one blue marlin and one sailfish. Wynsong also captured first place in the Tuna category with a 105.5-pound yellowfin tuna caught by Will Wilson for a total of $208,246, and third place, based on the time of release, went to Jolly-B with one blue marlin for $53,250.
Top Dolphin and $86,882 went to Ms. Mindy for their 51.5-pound dolphin caught by Jeff Friedman and first place Wahoo went to Cory Lockhart fishing aboard Trader's Hill for his 72.3-pound wahoo worth $84,388.
Complete coverage and results, cash payouts and photo galleries are on the tournament Web site at www.baypointbillfish.com/Local/news/index.htm
Just in time for the Invitational's silver anniversary, tournament directors added a few new twists to the already-popular event including a secured children's play area, a charity children's fishing event and a nod to the military community.
For the first time in tournament history, the rules called for a release-only format for the billfish category. Instead of bringing the billfish to the docks for weighing, teams verified their billfish catches by video while out at sea. The videos were then judged and shown to the crowds on the JumboTron screens Friday and Saturday. Event-goers were able to see the anglers in action and watch the magnificent fish in their natural environment; and the best part - all of the billfish were released into the Gulf unharmed.
Along with the new format, event planners added two new community events - the Al Hubbard Fishing Experience and a special military tribute.
Appropriately named after local fishing legend Al Hubbard, the children's fishing experience reached out to nearly 30 children ages 8 to 13 from the Boys and Girls Club of Bay County, the Anchorage Children's Home and the Gulf Coast Children's Advocacy Center. Nine local charter captains willingly donated their time and resources to take the kids fishing during an afternoon "tournament" before the Friday night weigh-ins. Capt. Greg Burnett and the kids on his Team Osprey won the friendly-competition.
In partnership with the Freedom Alliance, the Invitational also paid tribute to members of the Armed Forces by hosting five wounded Iraq War soldiers for a day of Gulf fishing. The soldiers, along with all those who had ever served in the military, were honored during the tournament with a touching standing ovation from the event crowds.
The Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament is hosted by the St. Joe Company and Bay Point Marina, and presented by Galati Yacht Sales and Viking Yachts. The 26th Annual Bay Point Invitational is set for July 15-19, 2009.
For more information, visit www.baypointbillfish.com