January 7, 2011. The Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament has long been recognized as a leader among Gulf Coast sport fishing events. Now in its 27th year, the Invitational is slated for July 6-10, 2011 and will feature several exciting new changes. For the first time in tournament history boats will be allowed to leave from ports outside of Panama City. Tournament officials have also removed the 72 boat limit, and are offering reduced entry fees for anglers that sign up early. Organizers expect these changes to boost the size of the fishing fleet and increase the tournament purse, enhancing an already exciting weigh in.
Perhaps the most anticipated development to the Invitational is the addition of several official Tournament Departure Points. Located in Destin, FL, Orange Beach, AL, and Tampa, FL, these alternate departure points give anglers the opportunity to save on fuel costs by keeping their boat closer to home.
“By leaving from their home ports, they save money two ways,” said Scott Burt, tournament co-director. “First, they don’t have to make that initial run to Panama City. Second, they’re closer to the fishing grounds. Both of these reduce fuel consumption, putting money back in the boat owner’s pocket.”
Boats leaving from alternate departure points will still be required to weigh their catch at Bay Point Marina in Panama City. Tournament scales will open on Friday July 8, and Saturday July 9.
Another cost cutting measure allows participants to save money by signing up for the tournament in advance. Entry into the tournament is normally $5,500, but boats entering before July 1 will save $500 and those entering before April 1 will save $1,000.
“We’re committed to keeping our entry fees a low as possible,” said Steve Arndt, marina director at Bay Point Marina. “By keeping entry fees low we hope to attract as many boats as possible and drive the total purse higher and higher.”
Arndt also explained the recent decision to do away with the 72 boat cap on the tournament. “In the past we were limited to the space available at Bay Point Marina,” he said, “and we simply didn’t have the space for more than 72 boats. By giving participants the option to leave from other ports, we relieve the pressure on dock space here at Bay Point. There’s literally no limit on the number of boats that can fish this year.”
Attracted by exciting weigh ins on Friday and Saturday night, the tournament typically draws huge crowds to see trophy class fish, live music, fresh food and a wide selection of local and national vendors. For more information about the Bay Point Invitational, please visit www.baypointbillfish.com.