Texas Billfish Classic, Aug. 13, 2020—The Texas Billfish Classic (TBC) held its 5th Annual Tournament this July with great success. Despite losing several boats due to a less than favorable weather forecast (following Hurricane Hanna) and a local tournament scheduling conflict, it didn’t stop the TBC fleet in growing for the fifth consecutive year. Although no qualifying Blue Marlin were weighed this year, the Billfish Release Division saw non-stop action that kept the leader board tight until the very end, releasing over 35 billfish during the three days of fishing.
This year, the TBC also implemented a new Swordfish Division that entertained spectators at the weigh scales with several fish coming in over 100 pounds. After all the diesel smoke settled, it was Draggin’ Up, a 74’ Viking out of Galveston, Texas, who earned first-place in the Billfish Release Division (1,200 points), as well as, reclaiming top honors as the 2020 Texas Billfish Classic Grand Champions.
In efforts to continue promoting billfish conservation in Texas, the TBC has initiated the highest minimum for harvesting a Blue Marlin in the State, as well as, creating a very competitive Billfish Release Division rivaling the historic big payouts of the Blue Marlin Division. Sponsored by YETI, this category has been one of the fastest growing and most participated since implementation in 2015. This year, captain Kevin Deerman and the Draggin’ Up team was able to hold on to their first-place finish by reaching 1,200 release points (2 Blue Marlin at 600 points each) first.
Captain Jimmy Werling of Triple Sea, whom also finished the event with 1,200 points (6 Sailfish released at 200 points each), took second place with Jeff Coulter’s Deez Nautz in third with 1,000 points, releasing 1 Blue Marlin and 2 Sailfish. Draggin’ Up owner Chris Huele was asked how he felt on the way back to the docks Saturday (knowing how close the release points were), “TBC teams always show up and fish hard, several of them started off red hot during the first two days of fishing.
Without much room for error, we had to make every fish count…we knew two blues (released) may not be enough. The team did a great job making the most out of every bite we had.” The newly added Swordfish Division received a lot of attention this year with Tournament Partner Ripcharts offering up an additional $5,000 bounty for the heaviest swordfish weighed. Kevin Kirkland’s Broad Vision was able to bring home first place with his son, angler Kyler Kirkland, reeling in the 191-pound monster. Fishyz Nitemare, captained by Ryan Reagan, came in second place with angler Grant Kilcrease’s 152-pound sword and angler Spencer Knief (Broad Vision) in third with his 133-pound fish.
Female Angler Reece Rockett, aboard Trophy Club, ran by captain Jake Mynier, won Top Female with Andon Werling, son of captain Jimmy Werling, taking Top Junior Angler aboard Carl Manchaca’s 62’ Spencer, Triple Sea. When asked about her weekend on the water, here’s what Reece had to say; “We had pretty decent conditions considering Hurricane Hanna rolled through just days before. After we caught the white and the blue, I knew the weekend would be nothing short of successful. With boats calling in released fish all day and then coming into the weigh station with (release) flags flying all over, it really gave us the “WOW” factor. I love the fact that we get to be a part of this glorious sport!”
The tuna bite was hit and miss this year but consistent, with the top 10 fish being less than 10 pounds apart. Angler Al Smith aboard Moments Notice, a 46’ Bertram ran by captain Elliot Brown out of Freeport, Texas, topped the field with a 51-pound yellowfin. Pozo Seco, a 72’ Viking out of Port O’Conner, Texas, captained by James Helm, captured second and third place tuna with angler Cody Spencer reeling in both 51- and 47.5-pound winners.
Captain Leslie Van Norman of the Easy Rider II, 61’ Buddy Davis out of Galveston, with combat veteran Carlos Cole on the rod, ended up with top honors with a 33-pound Wahoo. Second place went to angler Kurt Pantel of $ea Dollar$ (25 pounds) and third place going to angler Jerry Metcalf aboard the Tejas por Vida (20.5 pounds) captained by Bryan Cardwell.
Easy Rider II owner Nick Hardin had this to say about their weekend on the water, “Fishing was tough for us. I think “Hanna” did just enough to change our fishing pattern we were used to over the last couple months fishing. We traveled a lot, not spending too much time in one spot, looking for something different in the water. We happened to find a decent weed line and managed to pull a decent Wahoo off of it. We knew our tunas were probably not going to put us in the money and after releasing only one sailfish, we were hoping our Wahoo would pay off…Thankfully it did.”
To learn more about the Texas Billfish Classic or to entering the 2021 TBC, please visit www.texasbillfishclassic.com.