Big Fish, Big Time at Orange Beach Billfish Classic
The kickoff event for the big game fishing season along the northern Gulf of Mexico happens right here in Orange Beach May 16-20 at The Wharf.
In 1996, big game anglers concerned about the health of billfish populations formed the Orange Beach Billfish Classic in order to provide financial support for organizations that represent all recreational fishermen. Since its inception, the OBBC has donated more than $675,000 to The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and other conservation organizations.
The OBBC is recognized as one of the top events on the Gulf Coast tournament circuit and serves as an important fundraiser for conservation efforts. The OBBC is the world’s largest tournament donor to The Billfish Foundation with 100 percent of net profits going to TBF and other qualified 501(c)(3) conservation organizations.
Before 2013, the OBBC was held at the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club dock in Orange Beach Marina. However, overflow crowds caused the popular tournament to move in 2013 to The Wharf Marina, where there is plenty of room for the participating boats and spectators alike to witness some of the best fishing success on the Gulf Coast.
The OBBC not only kicks off the 2018 Gulf Coast tournament fishing season, it is the first of the five Gulf Coast tournaments qualifying for the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship Series.
The fish eligible for tournament awards include blue marlin with a 106-inch minimum size. Only one blue marlin per boat is allowed. In the catch-and-release category, properly documented catches are awarded points, 500 for blue marlin and 200 for white marlin, sailfish and spearfish. Swordfish is not an eligible tournament species.
Anglers will also compete in tuna, wahoo and dolphin categories with a minimum of 20 pounds each. Each boat is allowed to weigh three each of those species.
Registration for the tournament and the optional cash awards party is scheduled from 4-10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16 under the big tent at The Wharf. The kickoff party will treat the fishing teams to live music and dinner.
A mandatory captain’s meeting is set for 10 a.m. Thursday, May 17 under the big tent. Boat may leave The Wharf Marina at 10:30 a.m., heading through Perdido Bay to Perdido Pass. Boats may leave Perdido Pass at noon. Any boat that chooses to leave through Sailboat Bay may not leave the Wharf Marina until noon on May 17.
Fishing begins at noon on May 17. Boats must clear the Perdido Pass Bridge or Sailboat Bay in Bon Secour by 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 19th in order to weigh fish.
Spectators should start gathering along the boardwalks and balconies at The Wharf before the first weigh-in starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 18, and ends at 10 p.m. Saturday’s weigh-in is scheduled from 6-10 p.m. The tournament awards breakfast is set for 9-11 a.m. on Sunday.
Be sure to get to The Wharf early to find a prime viewing spot, and you might want to check out the great restaurants before the weigh-in starts. Don’t forget, ample parking is provided by The Wharf free of charge.