What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?

Four tournament directors look to the future.

What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?
Q. What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?Staff
What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?
Heather Maxwell - Pirate’s Cove Billfish TournamentCourtesy Heather Maxwell

Heather Maxwell
Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament
Manteo, North Carolina

I feel that our ­tournament will look very much the same in two decades. Tournament organizers might increase the blue marlin minimum weight, and I think blue marlin kill categories might disappear in the future. Certain tournaments rely on the scales to determine the winner, so they could potentially go away. The Pirate’s Cove tournament could afford to lose the marlin kill category since our winners are usually determined by release points. We haven’t killed a blue marlin in four years. And in 20 years, I would suspect the prize purse would be ginormous.

What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?
Bobby Carter - Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish ClassicCourtesy Bobby Carter

Bobby Carter
Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
Biloxi, Mississippi

The minimum length for blue marlin will be higher than it is now, and the boats will be a lot bigger too. Twenty years ago, when a 54-foot Bertram pulled into the marina, you thought it was the biggest boat on earth. They’re 92 feet now. Add at least another 20-something feet to them and tournament boats could be 100-plus feet for the standard boat by then. The manufacturers will come up with something solar-powered, just thinking out of the box for that. And the electronics are going to be more sophisticated as far as locating the fish. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.

What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?
Deidre Menefee - Carolina Billfish ClassicCourtesy Deidre Menefe

Deidre Menefee
Carolina Billfish Classic
Charleston, South Carolina

I don’t think every tournament will go all-release unless the government says we have to. There is still going to be big money, and you can still have that with all-release though. People would like to see their children and grandchildren are able to fish for blue marlin like they did 20 years ago. I can see a definite increase in kids’ fishing — from the 10-year-old grandson to the 30-year-old ­millennial. Years ago, we had a big lull in youth anglers; very few were participating in the tournaments. This year, I took a picture of a 15- or 16-year-old girl cleaning her fish at the dock. Someone like that will stick with it. The old days are coming around again. It’s a ­family event.

What Will Tournament Fishing Look Like in 20 Years?
Randy Bright - The Lone Star ShootoutCourtesy Randy Bright

Randy Bright
The Lone Star Shootout
Port O'Connor, Texas

I think we’ll see all the tournaments move toward an increasing emphasis on releasing billfish. The trend now is to raise the minimum size for [harvesting] billfish. I don’t have any reason to see that it’s going to go all-release though, and at this point, we don’t see any reason to raise our limit. Right now, live bait versus dead bait fishing for blue marlin is about 50-50, although live-baiting is becoming more common as a way to target larger blue marlin. Things evolve. Somebody comes up with a better idea, but all the old ways still work.