Bay Point cancels 2012 Invitational Billfish Tournament

PANAMA CITY BEACH — The 2012 Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament, slated for July 11-15, has been canceled, Bay Point Marina Director Steve Arndt confirmed Thursday.

Arndt said there was no single determining factor in the move. He cited the economy, lessened sponsorship, rising fuel costs, the proliferation of big-game tournaments along the Gulf Coast and logistical problems among factors in the decision, which he called “difficult but the right one.”

This year would have been the 28th Bay Point Invitational, which was once the standard-bearer for tournaments along the Gulf of Mexico. The one-day 40/40 Shootout, created two years ago for smaller boats to accompany the Bay Point event, also was canceled. Arndt held out hope of a return in the future, but the contributing factors may not be alleviated any time soon.

“We’re canceling it this year and possibly for good; we just don’t know,” Arndt said. “We always try to put on a quality event. All the obstacles we were facing this year made it very hard to put on an event that made everybody happy.”

Arndt said there are now 10 to 12 tournaments along the Gulf Coast and the Bay Point Invitational was typically held at the end of the schedule. Sponsors and boats have more choices and there simply wasn’t enough money to go around to compete in them all.

“More tournaments were driving a lot of the boats to fish closer to home,” Arndt said. “The high cost of fuel makes it harder for our out-of-town boats to participate.”

The Bay Point Invitational attracted 46 boats in 2011 and gave away more than $800,000 to anglers. The combined participation between the Bay Point Invitational and 40/40 Shootout was 72 boats, one more than the cap of 71 that was entered for many years at Bay Point before the economic downturn started to scare away boats.

The Bay Point Invitational had 47 boats in 2008 and 35 in 2009. The 2010 tournament wasn’t held due to BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Arndt said there was never a “magic number” of boats needed to put on the tournament. Slashing entry fees dramatically might bring in more boats, but other problems which required more funds to compensate for still would persist.

Chief among those was parking, which dwindled by around 400 spots with the addition of a park north of the marina. The area housed the former marina base of operations, had tennis courts and was a vacant lot used for the boat owners and anglers until the park was built. The lack of space would have necessitated the chore of finding another area or busing in participants.

“The park was a wonderful addition … but losing that lot was a severe blow,” Arndt said.

There was no change to other events held this year at Bay Point. The Bay Point Outdoor Expo and In-Water Boats Show is still set for March and the Leukemia Cup Poker Run is on the docket in May, among other smaller events.

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