Later that same year, the first Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic hosted 60 teams. Known for its large cash prizes, the Gulf Coast Classic quickly grew to be one of the top events on the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to the big money and big fish, participants also liked the long fishing hours (they left port on a Thursday afternoon and did not return until the Saturday evening weigh-in deadline). And because everyone gathered in the same marina, the pre- and post-event camaraderie and celebrations continued virtually nonstop. Notable years include 1999, when Bob Strue set the Mississippi state record for bluefin tuna at 837 pounds, and 2002, when Barry Carr landed the Gulf of Mexico record blue marlin — a 1,054-pound behemoth. Unfortunately, tournament co-founder Bill McLellan passed away that same year, losing his battle with cancer but ultimately leaving behind a rich legacy for thousands to enjoy.