Bay Point Billfish Invitational Cancelled

An annual summer tradition in Panama City Beach has been cancelled for 2012, citing economic and logistical challenges.  Every summer, the Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament brings people,  young and old alike, out of the woodwork to enjoy Panama City Beach’s hot summer nights, look at awesome boats and see some huge fish weigh in.

High fuel costs and competition

“It was definitely a tough decision,” said Steve Arndt, marina director at Bay Point Marina, “but ultimately the right one.” He contends that it wasn’t a single factor that led to the decision to cancel the 2012 tournament, but a combination of obstacles.

Arndt suggested that the economy was the main culprit, resulting in high fuel prices and a dwindling sponsor pool. “High fuel costs are especially tough on this tournament,” said Arndt, “Many of our boats come from out of town, and when fuel gets expensive it definitely affects their attendance.”

The proliferation of billfish tournaments along the Gulf Coast is also a factor. “There are almost a dozen big money tournaments along the Gulf Coast each year,” said Arndt. “And in this tight economy anglers and sponsors can’t afford to participate in every event.”

Many tournament anglers feel that their best chance to land a money winning fish lies westward in the fertile fishing grounds near the Louisiana oil fields. In the past, many boats from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi participated, but fuel costs have been pushing that number lower each year as they choose to fish closer to home.

Lost tons of parking

Other logistical factors influenced the decision to cancel the tournament, such as limited parking space. For years the tournament utilized a vacant lot just north of the marina as parking for spectators, participants and boat owners. That lot was recently renovated as a park, resulting in the loss of over 400 parking spaces. “Parking has always been a challenge, and when we lost the lot it was a severe blow. Without that extra space, there is no place for our boat owners and anglers to park.”

“We have many other special events at the marina, such as the Bay Point Outdoor Expo and In-Water Boats Show in March, the Leukemia Cup Poker Run in May and several smaller events throughout the year,” he said, “and we haven’t given up on the Invitational. Hopefully this will just be a short break.”

Past coverage of this event

2011 Billfish

2009 Billfish

2008 Billfish

Record Crowds but No Blue Marlins at Bay Point Billfish Invitational

Drawing record numbers, the 2009 Bay Point Billfish Invitational brought everything except Big Blue herself. Last year, the tournament went to an all catch-and-release for Blue Marlin, changing the way it had always been done.  This year, they went back to the good ‘ol method of what you catch, you bring in to weigh, except this year, nobody caught any Blue’s, just the blues.

“We had 67 boats registered this year,” said Tournament Director Scott Burt, “I would have liked more, but 67 is a great number considering the state of the economy.  We have salesman, developers, hotel owners, I mean, what industry hasn’t been hit?”

As I was running around taking pictures and taking notes, it was commented to me that they may have to shut the gates down.  At around 8:30, there were so many people in the “spectator” area that one couldn’t move through it, posing somewhat of a threat, actually.  Not 20 minutes later, there was an announcement by Scott Rossman, the MC of the event as he was talking to all the people in TV land, live about the tourney, that if they were planning on coming out, that they wouldn’t be able to get in as they closed the gates to all guests.  Scott Burt, Tournament Director, told me that this was only the third time in the history of the event that they had to do this.

Not exactly record-weight fish were brought in, but a few walked away with pocketfuls of cash, including Peter Bos of Destin, who brought in the winning Tuna weighing in at 119.5 lbs, netting him over $36,000.  The evening was relatively uneventful literally until the last 20 minutes of weigh-in when the first and second place Tuna were brought in along with the first place Dolphin.  At one point, the channel feeing into the marina was congested with millions of dollars worth of yachts ancey to get their weigh-on.

Seas were a little rougher than had been forecasted and many of the anglers had said that most of their trip at sea was accompanied by rain and cloudy weather.  Was this the cause of not only fewer fish, but smaller fish as well?  Were the giants looming too deep to find this year?  Well at least one thing’s for certain, many records still remain unbroken.

Final numbers:

Invitational – Saturday July 18, 2009

Tuna

  • Peter Bos, Legendary – 119.5 lbs
  • Paul Murdoch, Team Charles 50 – 90.3 lbs
  • Jared Roberts, Mollie – 51.3 lbs

Wahoo

  • Grant Nicholson, Life is Good – 33 lbs
  • Peggy Ann Hudson, Iona Louise – 20.3 lbs

Dolphin

  • August Redding, Dream Wake II – 32.1 lbs
  • Grant Nicholson, Life is Good – 27.5 lbs
  • Mark Griffin, Britney Jean – 26.3 lbs

40/40 Shootout Tournament – Friday July 17, 2009

Wahoo

  • Monty Ferrell, Just One More – 29 lbs
  • Collins White, The Dirty 38 – 21.0 lbs
  • Rick Thompson, Frig It – 23.5 lbs

Tuna

  • Mark Crone, A-Loan Again – 56.1 lbs

Dolphin

  • Monty Ferrel, Just One More – 20.5 lbs
  • Jeremy Sprenkle, Wideopen – 24.0 lbs
  • Mark Datelle, Wideopen – 23.8 lbs

Al Hubbard Kids Fishing Experience

Team Osprey – 10.1
Team Cast-A-Way – 6.8
Team Adios – 5.1
Team Reel Fun – 7.7
Team Premier – 6.0
Team Cool Breeze – 4.0
Team B&T – 42.9
Team Boxfull – 4.2
Team Floridaze – 7.5
Team Fishbones – 8.7
Team JOE – 10.5
Team Southern Dawn – 4.7

25th Bay Point Invitational Tournament Makes History

Tournament Pays Out Nearly $1 Million and Marks Silver Anniversary with Success of New Community Events

Panama City Beach, Fla. (July 14, 2008) – 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.

Continue reading “25th Bay Point Invitational Tournament Makes History”