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Courtesy of North Carolina DU

The crew of the Safari poses with their awards from the Band the Billfish tournament.


A record number of boats signed up to compete in the 35th annual Band the Billfish Tournament, which took place July 19–23, 2023, in Morehead City, North Carolina. Anglers on more than 40 boats hit the water to try to catch the largest blue marlin during the annual competition.

In the weeks leading up to the event, the offshore forecast began looking less than desirable. To encourage participation, the Carteret County DU committee added Sunday as an optional fishing day. With this addition, registered boats were allowed to fish the best two out of four days. This decision was well received, and participation nearly doubled from the previous year.

Following the lead of the North Carolina Billfish Series, Carteret County DU opted to increase registration fees and add a “total release points” category. These changes helped increase the prize payout by over $120,000 from 2022. A record purse of $240,250 was paid to the winning boats in their respective categories.

This year’s bite was much hotter than previous years, with a whopping 71 billfish released. This is the fourth highest number of releases in the tournament’s 35-year history. The Safari, captained by Moon Crossman, showcased an impressive sweep in the Level I, Level II, daily release, and total release–sonar categories. The Safari earned $107,000 of the total purse.

After two days on the water, participating anglers were more than ready to relax on Saturday night at the tournament party. Held under the big tent at Morehead City Waterfront, the party featured a delicious meal by Seaside Sensations as well as live entertainment from the 252 Mixing Crew.

Since 2020, the Carteret County DU committee has instituted various changes to the Band the Billfish Tournament to enhance support for DU’s mission. This year’s fundraising efforts netted over $40,000, making it one of the chapter’s most profitable events to date. A hearty thank-you goes out to all the tournament sponsors, donors, participants, and volunteers. This year’s success would not have been possible without support from the sportfishing community.

The 36th Annual Band the Billfish Tournament has been set for July 17–20, 2024. Visit for more details.