Top Offshore Fishing Tournaments

From the biggest marlin and heftiest paydays to the best parties and the toughest competition, there’s a billfish tournament to suit just about anyone

Cant Miss Tournaments
The San Juan IBT represents one of the oldest and best values in all of fishing.Mark Smestad

Two anglers fish side by side. Each challenges the other to catch the most fish, or the largest. Perhaps they place a small wager on the outcome. Spectators gather to watch the action — and just like that, a fishing tournament is born. And while it's impossible to list every event, here are just a few offshore fishing tournaments that deserve a second look. There's a tournament for nearly everyone, so get out there and fish in 2019.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is hosted by the Golden Nugget Casino Hotel in Biloxi, giving anglers a shot at winning big on both land and sea.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is hosted by the Golden Nugget Casino Hotel in Biloxi, giving anglers a shot at winning big on both land and sea.Courtesy Gulf Coast Classic/Robbie Carter

Big Money Offshore Fishing Tournaments

Best Odds Outside the Tournament
Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
Biloxi, Mississippi

Hosted at the luxurious Golden Nugget Casino Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic is a gambler's paradise. Hit the tables and then hit the water for a shot at some oversize blue marlin and yellowfin tuna in the fish-rich waters of the upper Gulf of Mexico. The tournament record for blue marlin is a 1,054-pounder caught by Barry Carr on Sea Wolff, so the big blues are ready for you.

Become a Millionaire While Getting a Suntan
Bisbee's Black and Blue
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

It's one of the richest events in all of sport fishing, so if you want a shot at the big bucks, be sure to enter as many of the optional jackpots as your wallet will allow. On the plus side, you'll be wetting a line in one of sport fishing's greatest destinations, so you're already a winner the moment you step off the plane in Cabo.

Tournaments bring together some of sport fishing’s most passionate owners, captains, anglers and crews as they go head-to-head against the toughest species of game fish in the world.
Tournaments bring together some of sport fishing’s most passionate owners, captains, anglers and crews as they go head-to-head against the toughest species of game fish in the world.Courtesy Debra Todd

Largest Participating Fleet
White Marlin Open
Ocean City, Maryland

By any measure, the White Marlin Open is a big one. In 2015, 300-plus boats vied for their share of a total purse exceeding $3.9 million. The winning white marlin took home better than $1.1 million, with the second-place white worth just over that magical million-dollar mark as well. The weigh-ins are a tremendous spectator affair the whole town comes out to watch.

Better bring the big guns for the one-day worldwide shootout that's known as the World Cup.
Better bring the big guns for the one-day worldwide shootout that's known as the World Cup.Courtesy World Cup / Anthony Johnson

Go Big or Stay Home
World Cup Blue Marlin Championship
Worldwide

It's a one-day shootout occurring every year on July 4: the World Cup. Teams fish for eight hours in their respective time zones for blue marlin in a winner-take-all format with a 500-pound minimum. Since 1985, teams fishing the event have tallied three granders — the biggest being a 1,195-pounder caught off Bermuda — and 11 more blues over 700. Better bring the heavy tackle for this one.

A Great Week of Summer Vacation
Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
Morehead City, North Carolina

Mark your calendar for a week of summer vacation in the middle of June and head to coastal North Carolina for the Big Rock. The tournament week kicks off with a lady angler shootout and goes right through to the main event, which offers participants a choice of fishing for four of a possible six days. And while the early winners of the billfish tournament took home a child's red wagon filled with silver dollars, the stakes are now considerably higher: The event's total purse has topped the $1 million mark for the past 16 years, and the Big Rock celebrates its 58th anniversary in 2016.

Best Shot at a Black Marlin
Lizard Island Black Marlin Tournament
Lizard Island, Australia

If it's a nice black marlin you're after, pack the bags and head Down Under for the Lizard Island Black Marlin Tournament. The tournament adopted a catch-and-release ­format after the 20th anniversary event in 2006, but if you're fortunate enough to release a fish deemed to be in excess of 1,000 pounds, you'll have your name engraved on the Lizard Island 1,000 Pound Tag and Release Club perpetual trophy. It's a bit of a long flight from the States, but the opportunity to fish this tournament is a golden one for any angler.

It's tough to beat the Cajun cuisine served up at the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice, Louisiana.
It's tough to beat the Cajun cuisine served up at the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice, Louisiana.Courtesy Cajun Canyons / Helmut Ermlich

Family-Friendly Offshore Tournaments

Some Like It Spicy
Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic
Venice, Louisiana

Tournament director Steve Thomas believes a great party starts with excellent food, so he goes out of his way to treat the participants of the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic to some of Louisiana's best ­cuisine. A captain's meeting catered by New Orleans' famed Acme Oyster House? Count us in. Plus, Venice is the marlin fishing gateway to the entire northern Gulf of Mexico.

The "Rock Star" Weigh-In
Blue Marlin Grand Championship
Orange Beach, Alabama

With two giant Jumbotron displays, a wild light show and a sound system that would make Metallica jealous, the Blue Marlin Grand Championship is truly a sight to behold — and so are its weigh-ins. Add a huge crowd of spectators (over 10,000 turned out for Saturday evening's weigh-in during the 2015 tournament) and you've got the full-on rock-star treatment for this one. The Wharf Entertainment Complex in Orange Beach is also one of the most family-friendly locations for billfish tournaments found anywhere in the world.

Whether there’s a six- or even seven-figure prize or just a simple trophy on the line, tournaments bring out the best in competitive fishing.
Whether there’s a six- or even seven-figure prize or just a simple trophy on the line, tournaments bring out the best in competitive fishing. Tournaments also generate considerable funding each year for charitable and conservation-oriented organizations around the world.Courtesy Debra Todd

A Top Charter Fleet
Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament
Manteo, North Carolina

The lineup of Carolina-built ­charter boats fishing out of Oregon Inlet is one of the most impressive fleets anywhere. These vessels are designed to fish in unforgiving waters in nearly any sea condition short of a tropical storm, season after season. If you want to charter and fish a tournament, then Pirate's Cove would be a great choice. And although the event usually has great white marlin fishing, the tournament-record 1,229-pound blue marlin means some very big blues are in the area as well.

In addition to a highly competitive fleet of boats participating each year, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin offers an outstanding awards brunch as well.
In addition to a highly competitive fleet of boats participating each year, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin offers an outstanding awards brunch as well.Courtesy Emerald Coast Classic / Allison Yii

Great Awards Brunch
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin
Sandestin, Florida

If the way to a fisherman's heart is through his stomach, the ECBC should make anyone's must-fish list this summer. Sunday morning brunches for the awards ceremony are common among Gulf Coast tournaments where the weigh-ins extend well into Saturday evening. These events put on a pretty good spread for their participants, but the ECBC folks really roll out the red carpet. The prize purse has also topped the $1 million mark for the last several years. Great event, great location and a great party — let's go fishing.

Giving Back: A Community-Oriented Tournament
Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Billfish tournaments as a collective group support a wide variety of charities each year, contributing millions of dollars along the way. The Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament has very deep ties with the local community and a number of charities. It's also become a standout on the summer billfish circuit on the East Coast due in large part to that support, not to mention the incredibly high level of competition.

The Custom Shootout draws some of the world's finest sport fishing boats each year.
The Custom Shootout draws some of the world's finest sport fishing boats each year.Courtesy Debra Todd

Additional Offshore Fishing Tournaments

A Beautiful Custom Fleet
Custom Shootout
Abaco Beach Resort, the Bahamas

If you enjoy custom sport-fishing boats, then make plans now to visit the Abaco Beach Resort for Skip Smith's famous Custom Shootout. There's probably no finer display of these seagoing works of art anywhere in the world. Many of the builders are on hand for the week's festivities, so you might find yourself rubbing elbows with guys whose last names are as famous as their boats.

In terms of highest release totals, head for the Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown or the Offshore World Championship, both of which are held on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.
In terms of highest release totals, head for the Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown or the Offshore World Championship, both of which are held on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.Richard Gibson

Highest Release Totals
Tie: Offshore World Championship and
Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown
Costa Rica

When it comes to the highest tournament-release numbers, all signs point to the Pacific paradise of Costa Rica. During the first leg of the Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown in 2015, the 39-boat fleet released 2,154 billfish — a catch ratio of 55.2 billfish per boat for the three-day tournament. Just a few months later, the Offshore World Championship invited a total of 67 participating teams to Quepos, Costa Rica; in four days of fishing, they let go a combined total of 2,840 sailfish and marlin for a catch ratio of 42.3 billfish per boat during the tournament. Both events are world class, so we score this one a draw.

South Florida's sailfish circuit is as competitive as any tournament fishing in the world.
South Florida's sailfish circuit is as competitive as any tournament fishing in the world.Courtesy Quest for the Crest / Greg Gawlikowski

A Highly Competitive Sailfish Series
Quest for the Crest
South Florida

South Florida's tournament sailfish anglers are among the most tenacious fishermen anywhere in the world. That's showcased in the Bluewater Movements' Quest for the Crest series, where participating teams vie not only for some serious prize money, but the right to wear the crest on the winner's coat of arms. The faint of heart need not apply for this four-stop series.

Oldest Sailfish Tournament
Silver Sailfish Derby
West Palm Beach, Florida

Established by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club in 1935, the Silver Sailfish Derby is the world's longest running sailfish tournament. In fact, the only three years lost were from 1943 through 1945 due to World War II. Along the way, the historic tournament became one of the first to promote catch-and-release fishing and the use of red pennant flags to signify a successful release — both ­concepts still going strong over eight decades later.

International teams from the four corners of the sport fishing world converge on Costa Rica each year for the prestigious Offshore World Championship.
International teams from the four corners of the sport fishing world converge on Costa Rica each year for the prestigious Offshore World Championship.Courtesy Offshore World Championship

Most Challenging International Competition
Offshore World Championship
Quepos, Costa Rica

Walk the docks during the competitive Offshore World Championship, and you'll likely hear a dozen different languages spoken within the first 50 feet. That's due to the incredibly diverse international support this event receives. Over 60 fishing teams from far-flung destinations like Brazil, Angola, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand come to Costa Rica in hopes of being named the Offshore World Champion.

It's the calm before the storm prior to the kickoff of The MidAtlantic tournament in Cape May, New Jersey.
It's the calm before the storm prior to the kickoff of The MidAtlantic tournament in Cape May, New Jersey.Courtesy MidAtlantic / Jeff Merrill

Spread the Wealth: Many Ways to Win
The MidAtlantic
Cape May, New Jersey

The MidAtlantic Tournament is a unique event because of the wide variety of categories and optional jackpots aimed to spread the prize money into the hands of more winners. Hedge your bets in the categories you think you're strongest in, then target billfish, tuna or other qualifying species during the three of five possible days of fishing. The MidAtlantic certainly is a fine choice to have a fantastic time and for a shot at taking home a big check. The hospitality and dock parties are also hard to beat.

Best Chance to See a Blue Marlin
USVI Open Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

We might take some heat for this one, but it is hard to beat the North Drop off St. Thomas during the August moon for your best shot at seeing a blue. Some years are better than others, but it's the consistency that keeps teams coming back to American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook season after season. And to go head-to-head with other equally marlin-addled teams in the USVI Open is just icing on the cake.

A good time is nearly assured during the Bermuda Triple Crown: big fish, big money and lots of fun all around.
A good time is nearly assured during the Bermuda Triple Crown: big fish, big money and lots of fun all around.Courtesy Bermuda Billfish Blast

Amazing Scenery (And Big Blue Marlin)
Bermuda Triple Crown
Hamilton, Bermuda

The island nation of Bermuda is certainly among the most picturesque in the world: pink sand beaches, verdant vistas and dramatic ocean scenes. Add to the mix some incredibly competitive marlin fishing and the result is the Bermuda Triple Crown. Come for the beauty, stay for the fishing.

Blue marlin jumping guatemala
If chasing marlin and sailfish on the fly is your idea of a great tournament then head for Guatemala and the Jake Jordan Invitational.Courtesy Capt. Chris Sheeder

Best Fly-Fishing Tournament
Jake Jordan Invitational Sailfish Fly Tournament
Casa Vieja Lodge, Guatemala

Those who are addicted to the thrill of chasing billfish on the fly rod should definitely pack the rod tubes and head south to Guatemala's Casa Vieja Lodge for the Jake Jordan Invitational. Combine world-class boats and great fishing with captains and crews well-versed in the art of fly-fishing, throw in some fun parties back ashore, and it's nirvana for the long-rodder.

Tops in the Dominican Republic
Dominican Billfish Triple Header Series
Dominican Republic

Over the last few years, there has been an amazing amount of buzz about the fishing down in the Dominican Republic. Thanks in part to the many FADs placed just offshore, the bite can be red hot for a mixed bag of blues, whites and sails alike. The marinas and accommodations are also top-flight, and the DR is just a handful of hours away by air from nearly anywhere in the Southeast U.S. If this sounds at all attractive, then check out Rick Alvarez's Dominican Billfish Triple Header Tournament Series, with events in both Cap Cana and Casa de Campo.