Changes on Tap

The clocks are moving ahead, water temperatures are rising and this year’s fishing season will soon be in full swing. The 2024 slate of events—the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish and the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournaments—are set for August 10-16, with a few changes on tap for participants. Some involve entry fees and payouts, while a couple others serve to clarify rules to avoid any confusion.

For starters, base entry fees for both contests are increasing modest amounts per team, the first increase since 2015. Board of Directors President Rob Warren explains the rationale behind this move.

“We put on a great feed every night so we’re trying to offset some of the food costs due to the number of teams and inflation,” Warren explains. “We want to continue to provide the same quality meals, so this is a way to absorb those added costs.”

PCBT boats entering the Omni Sonar Division this year will see significant savings. The Omni entry fee has been lowered to $5,000 for 2024. Omni Directional Sonar is defined as any technology that requires a transducer mounted to a shaft that extends from or through the hull of the boat with the capability to rotate and view the water from 1 to 360 degrees. Omni sonar in the Alice Kelly Memorial is not allowed.

“The main reason for this change is to increase participation in that category,” Warren says. “We’re trying to encourage even more Omni boats to enter. Some guys don’t have the budget or space to add an Omni sonar, so the two separate divisions cuts down on seclusion while keeping the respective payouts nearly the same.

“Teams are getting used to the two competitive divisions,” Warren adds. “Both offer nice paychecks for the winners and I believe having different categories for sonar is the wave of the future. Even the bass and crappie tournaments are recognizing the distinctions with side scan sonar-equipped boats.”

The Board also clarified two fishing rules for this season. To make both events consistent, two mates in the cockpit will be allowed for both the Alice Kelly as well as the PCBT. Another fishing rule has further been codified also.

“We wanted to address the mutilation of fish after the situation at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament last year,” Warren explains. “We’ve had our own cases of mutilated fish in the late ‘80s. We have always followed the International Game Fish Association rules. But so there is no confusion, we are adopting the IGFA rule on mutilation exactly. The IGFA is the accepted gold standard and we wanted to spell it out so everyone is aware.”

Any fish that is deemed to be mutilated shall be disqualified. Mutilation is defined as any damage to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh. Injuries caused by leader or line, scratches, old healed scars or regeneration deformities are not considered to be disqualifying injuries. The decision of the Rules Committee regarding mutilation shall be final.

Change can be unsettling at times. But when changes are enacted to improve the overall experience, it’s usually a win-win situation and that was the Board’s intent with these rule changes for this year’s events.