Information Age

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Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a changing”. That could not be more true than in the sportfishing and tournament industry. Fishermen and women are enjoying boats with technology and equipment that make the impossible possible. Boats are fast enough now that they can depart from a tournament destination at noon and be 150 miles and still have time to fish that day. Rough sea conditions are now manageable with Seakeepers. Fish cannot hide as side scan sonar is becoming mainstream. Onboard internet as well as cellular service in oil field areas allow boats to be as well connected offshore as they are on land.

Years ago when I was a kid I watched my dad, Johnny, conduct a captains meeting where he informed the participants that they would be required to video their releases. Overall it was received positively, but there were those in the room that were stuck in their ways, didn’t have the know how to operate a video camera, and they certainly didn’t like being told that they had to go buy one! Fast forward 25 years, video verification for release is commonplace and you won’t find a boat without at least 5 cameras, GoPros and an arsenal of cell phones with video capability and just about everyone onboard is familiar with operating them.

The Orange Beach Billfish Classic has always been on the forefront of new concepts and ideas in terms of tournament format and rules. This is due in large part to the fact that the tournament is run by a fishing family that lives in Orange Beach. In addition to being local, we are involved in the fishing community. Many of the boat owners and crews are personal friends of ours. Our kids go to school and play sports together. We enjoy each other’s company over cocktails and dinner at each other’s houses. We have plenty of conversation that facilitates new concepts and ideas for the ever evolving tournament industry. We have a direct line to the fishing community like no other tournament director does for this reason.  

The Orange Beach Billfish Classic was the first tournament in the gulf to require video verification for release. We were the first tournament in our area to adopt a payout that caters to marlin fishermen with tournament money going to kill and release only. We were the first tournament to accept cell phone video for release verification when everyone else was stuck on participants brining their cameras and cords to the video booth. We will always make efforts to be on the cutting edge of applying sensible concepts to make life better for our participants with the tools and technology currently available.

In todays’ day and age, an educated and informed crew is the most competitive one. Therefore, starting this year, we will be requiring teams to report their releases within 30 minutes of the catch. We will in turn keep our OBBC app updated in real time with the results. This is not for fanfare or for people on the beach to be able to see what y’all are doing out there. This information is being required and made available for you to access so that you can make good, educated decisions on how to manage your catches. On the app during fishing hours, boats will not have names. They will be referenced to by a number in no specific order; You will not get to see WHO they are. You will only get to see what they’ve caught and how they are bet. We totally understand that boats do not want to give up their results out of fear that the fleet will close in on them if they get on a hot bite.

This is why we are going to keep the boat names out of the app during fishing hours. In theory you could make a guess as to who boat # 17 with 4 releases at the end of Thursday afternoon is based on how they are bet, but that’s as far as you could get in trying to figure out who they are! Here is one scenario; it is the last day of the tournament and you have 3 blue marlin releases. Fishing has been slow for most and you hook a fish and get it up to the boat and it’s a 112 incher about 550 pounds. You know of 2 other fish that have already been killed that are bigger than that by boats that are bet heavy.

You may find that fish to be worth more money to you if let it go rather than slide it through the door. All you have to do is open the app, tally your catches to the boats that have caught as many or more than you, see how they are bet and you can make the best possible decision on what to do with that fish. After all, we are a conservation minded tournament and if this rule saves the life of just one fish while helping you make a smarter decision, it was well worth implementing!

Today boats are more capable of getting in touch with tournament headquarters on land from offshore than ever before. Sat phone, Starlink, KVH, Spot and cell service at the rigs are available for boats to communicate. Most boats I can think of have at least 3 of the above mentioned communication technologies. And for some reason if you have none of the above, go old school and radio to another boat to do it for you. We have entered an age where people like to be informed, and the technology is available to keep them informed. It is our intention to keep up with the times and do so.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the OBBC as our tournament kicks things off on our side of the gulf! It is always great catching up with everyone after a long fall/winter/spring. As you all know, we shell out for the best food and booze out there so don’t miss the party!

Cheers to BIG FISH and SMALL SEAS! – Travis Dorland and the rest of the Dorland family