North Carolina's annual Band the Billfish tournament is a truly one-of-a-kind event. It begins with the Captain's Party on Thursday night, followed by two days of fishing for blue and white marlin and swordfish in the waters off
Morehead City. If two participants are tied for the greatest number of billfish caught and released (only marlin over 400 pounds can be kept), the tie is often broken by weighed-in dolphinfish (mahi-mahi) and wahoo.
"We have long prided ourselves on being a leader in catch-and-release competition," says Committee Chair J.D. Swart. "The Band the Billfish contest has a lifetime release total of 1,119 fish."
As one of eight events in the North Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Conservation Series, the DU tournament became part of the state's angling history in its first year. In 1989, Captain Howard Basnight of the Wave Runner reeled in a
1,002-pound blue marlin. It remains the only such fish weighing over 1,000 pounds caught in the area.
During the 2016 event, 34 boats caught and released 30 sailfish and brought in several gamefish for the weigh-in. The Bill Collector team won first place and $18,500 of the tournament's $101,350 purse, and Sensation, captained by Dale
Britt, placed second and claimed $11,100.
The star of the 28th annual tournament, however, was young Logan Dyer of the Bill Collector, who released three sailfish, caught the largest dolphinfish, and won the Greenwing Angler Award.
The tournament's success is due in large part to the tremendous support from its sponsors, including Smithfield, Grills2You, Transportation Impact, White's Tractor and Truck Companies LLC, Knotty South Custom Woodworking, Jay Taylor
Exterminating Co., Neuse Sport Shop, Edward Jones, Getsco, First Bank, Bluewater Yacht Sales, Linda Rike Real Estate, Gregory Poole Equipment Company, and many others.
"This tournament is all about conservation," says Committee Co-chair Neal Rowland. "From oceans, bays, and estuaries to prairie potholes and river systems, Ducks Unlimited enhances and restores wetlands for waterfowl and all the other
species that depend on them, including these fish and all of us."