Tournament Highlights — 1984 to Today
After a five year drought, we finally see Blue Marlin brought to the scales! Three Blues are weighed, but Pipe Dream’s 665 pounder takes home top honors and a check for $187,574. 2011 is the inaugural year of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown, and Texas boat Patron gets Gulf Coast bragging rights. For the first time ever, ladies anglers sweep an entire category, taking home first, second and third place Tuna awards. Josh Herren aboard Crikey sets a new 40/40 Shootout record with a 155 pound Tuna. Crowd response was massive, forcing us to close the gates at 7:45pm Saturday night. Swordfish makes a debut as a weighed category. A Million Dollar Prize is offered to anyone breaking the Florida state Swordfish record, but no one goes home a millionaire...
The Invitational is canceled for the first time in tournament history due to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the resulting fishing closures in the Gulf. Fishing eventually resumes, but far too late to host the Invitational. In response, Bay Point creates a smaller tournament in September called the Panama City Beach Sportfish Classic. A bona fide success, the Classic attracts 44 boats from across the Gulf and over $250,000 in prize money.
We have not just one, but TWO tournaments in 2009. A “Tournament within a Tournament”, this is the first year of the 40/40 Shootout. The anglers get it handed to them, though, as rough weather puts a damper on fishing. Back by popular demand, Weighed Blue Marlin is added as an optional category but no blues are brought to the docks. Bay Point’s own Traders Hill releases one blue and one white to win Catch and Release and claim the title of Tournament Champion. Life Is Good rules the optionals, though, and takes home a check for $204,284.
Bay Point becomes the first major tournament on the Gulf Coast to make the switch to a full release format. Tuna, Dolphin and Wahoo are still brought to the docks, but all billfish are caught and released. Life Is Good lives up to their name, wins first place Catch and Release and takes home $210,960 without weighing a single fish. The event is broadcast nationwide on CSS Sports, WJHG and streaming video on wjhg.com. Two events, the Al Hubbard Kids Fishing Experience and the Soldiers Salute make their inaugural appearance to rave reviews.
First year of ownership under the St. JOE Company. The minimum length for blue marlin was increased to 103". No qualifying blues were weighed making the event, in effect, our first unofficial all-release tournament. Done Deal won $166,249 for first place in Catch and Release. Thee giant screen JumboTron makes its debut, and release videos are shown during the weigh-ins for the first time. The leaderboard is moved to the JumboTron too, allowing instant updates and projected winnings for each fish as it was weighed. The Rhythm All Stars bring down the house during the Wednesday night Kick-Off Party!
There’s no doubt the fish weighed more than a thousand pounds when Barry Carr saw it for the first time behind the Sea Wolf. It was probably still a grander when it got to the dock, but by the time the crew hoisted it up on the scales it weighed 998.6 lbs., enough to be the second largest blue marlin ever weighed in Florida, but not enough to scare Conrad Hawkins’ 1,046.0 lb. Bay Point and Florida record. It was quite a fish and quite tournament.
2005 marked the first time the tournament had to be rescheduled. Hurricane Dennis did us in, but only for a week. After much scurrying and hand wringing the Invitational roared back. The seas proved fair enough for the Wynsong to take home prize money of $197,423 for a 473.0 lb. blue marlin. Ms. Mindy's catch and release points earned them $128,732. Not bad.
Catch and Release comes to Bay Point! So do giant thunderstorms and total available prize money exceeding $750,000 (guaranteed and optional). For the second year in a row, no blue marlin are brought to the dock, but over forty billfish are caught and released, each on video tape. WJHG and Comcast Sports Southeast both broadcast the Saturday night weigh-in live. It was quite a show. The tournament was dedicated to sportsman Al Hubbard.
"Miss Billfish" returns to rave reviews, joined by Viking Yachts and Galati Yacht Sales as new presenting sponsors. For the first time in twenty years the Tournament is won by the first place tuna. Morris Palmer abroad the Punchlist takes the cake with a 173.4 lb. catch. A new record for dolphin is set by John Clay on the Re-Rig with his 57.8 lb. entry. An optional cash prize pool is established.
Year nineteen. Hatteras Yachts and Mobile Hatteras were presenting sponsors. Hatteras came, Hatteras saw and Hatteras conquered. Neil Kennedy, fishing for Mobile Hatteras on the Gulf Rascal, brought home first place with a 503.8 lb. blue marlin. Poetry in motion.
The year of the one that didn't get away! Conrad Hawkins aboard the Lucky 2 set a new Florida Record with a 1,046.0 lb. blue marlin. The crowd went wild and the television audience was mesmerized. The fish drew a record Saturday night crowd. The American Red Cross, Children’s Home Society and the Boys and Girls Clubs joined the tournament as charity sponsors. Hatteras Yachts returned as presenting sponsor. The new Harbormaster’s Office opened in time for the Billfish Tournament.
It took 18 years for a 198.8 lb. yelloefin tuna to hit the scales at Bay Point and one day for that record to be broken. Trader’s Hill breaks the unbreakable with a 200.6 lb. catch. Who says it’s too rough to fish? Hatteras Yachts signs three year contract as presenting sponsor. First prize blue marlin increased to $200,000. Quarterdeck at Bay Point Marina, for many years the site of the kickoff party, is destroyed and replaced with a new pool and party area. Angler has a hole-in-one during the Bay Point Invitational Billfish Golf Tournament but failed to participate in the closest-to-the-pin prize pool.
Over five hundred parking places added to the Tournament. Food fair turned over to local restaurants. Tournament raises $38,000 for Anchorage Children’s home. Tournament television special broadcast on Florida Sports Network and Saturday weigh-in receives live TV coverage from start to finish in Bay County. James Wilson III, after fishing in all sixteen Bay Point tournaments, wins first prize with a 538.8 lb. blue marlin. John Campbell is in second place with his 478.1 lb. catch.
Purse crosses $400,000. Field cut back to 75. Entry fee is now $7,500; a long way from its modest $500 starting place. Awards banquet moved to Sunday morning and private party for anglers and sponsors added to Thursday night activities. Crowds become so large that Bay Point gates are closed to the public. Saturday fishing extended two hours. John Bleakley is back again with third place blue marlin, but it is Thurmond Bell with a 516.0 lb. blue marlin who wins over twelve-year-old R.D. Warren, who proved to be a favorite with the record setting weigh-in crowd.
"Miss Bay Point Bikini" makes her last stand. The bikini contest bites the dust and becomes a part of tournament history. Denny Edwards on the Dixie Rebel takes first place with a 404.0 lb. blue marlin and John Bleakley returns to the Hall of Fame for the third time with first place tuna.
Purse reaches $390,000. Robbie Peacock on the Flying Fish wins with a 531.0 lb. blue marlin. John Bleakley on the Bounty Hunter brings in the last white marlin ever to make the Bay Point leaderboard and Dorothy Harris on the That’ll Do brings in the last sailfish. Both species are dropped from competition the following year.
Don Jones, fishing on the Woodknot out of Bay Point, wins with a 645.0 lb. blue marlin. Last time a tournament event is held in the Bay Point Yacht & Country Club Clubhouse. Tournament contributes the entry fee from one boat to the Anchorage Children’s Home. Local television personality Scott Rossman co-anchors the weigh-in.
Purse tops $365,000. Panama City News Herald publishes first tournament newsletter. Local fishing legend Linda Boggs fishing on the Linda Gale becomes first female champion with 456.0 lb. blue marlin. Linda also sets record with the longest speech ever made by the winner at the awards banquet.
B.J. Putnam, who organized fishing tournaments at Bay Point long before there was an Invitational, passes away. A local boat owned by Captain Bobby Zales takes Ed Murton of Coral Gables to the winner’s circle with a 445.0 blue marlin. Bay Point angler Gil Barret ties the tournament dolphin record with a 55.0 lb. catch and John Daniels on the Daisy Mae sets a record with a 185.0 lb. yellowfin tuna.
Drifters return as highlight of tournament entertainment. Food fair added to the tournament for the first time. Noted Birmingham physician and businessman Richard Scrushy wins with 581.0 lb. blue marlin.
Texas Governor Mark White serves as honorary Master of Ceremonies, but a Florida boat still brings home a 530.0 lb. blue marlin to win. Johnny Daniels on the Back Down is the lucky angler. Bay Point boats win first place in white marlin, tuna, wahoo and dolphin; the most categories ever won by Bay Point boats in a single tournament.
Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose put on a show to end all shows at the Captains Party. Tournament crowds are estimated to exceed 10,000 for the first time. Dorothy Harris fishing on the all-woman team aboard the Anastasia became the first female angler to win at Bay Point in any category when she brings home a 66.0 pounder to take first place white marlin. Hugh Fuller takes blue marlin with a 393.0 lb. catch.
Junior Anglers Bottom Fishing Tournament held in conjunction with the Invitational. Marina expanded to accommodate 85 participants and purse raised to $325,000. Drifters provide entertainment at Captains Party. First Place 295.0 lb. blue marlin caught by Kristian Chapman wins $100,000. Kristian is part-time marina employee and returns richer on Sunday to help clean up after the tournament.
First "Miss Bay Point Bikini Contest" held in conjunction with the Thursday night Captains Party. Trica Hahn wins contest and goes on to become Miss Florida USA. For the first time a Bay Point boat wins tournament championship. David Marshall brings a 496.0 lb. blue marlin to the scales on the Trader’s Hill. Joe Warrington on the Dana Ann sets Tournament record.
Private betting pool discontinued. Tournament establishes a guaranteed purse of $287,500. Calcuttas and betting prohibited by new tournament rules. Marina expanded and field raised to 70 boats. Sam Smithson wins with 413.0 lb. blue marlin.
Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch is presenting sponsor, the only time the Tournament has allowed its name to be associated with a commercial interest. Jerry Elrod fishes in rough seas for a 213.0 lb. blue marlin which wins him a free trip to fish for black marlin on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Tournament begins a long association with Anchorage Children’s Home.
Two Bay Point tournament records set. Manning McPhillips on the Huntress brings a 745.0 lb. blue marlin to the scales. Kristian Chapman on the Six Cs establishes white marlin record with 101.0 lb. catch.
First tournament. Fifty boat event planned and last boat accepts one hour before close of registration. Entry fee set at $500. $10,000 offered for first place blue marlin. Additional $50,000 in prizes won through a participating pool. Local angler Joey Chapman weighs in the first blue marlin and W.D. Brunson wins with 531.0 lb. entry.