California’s Billfish Series Has a Strong Start and Finish

By: FishRap Staff

AVALON — This year’s California Billfish Series gave away about $150,000 in cash and prizes in its three tournaments: the Zane Grey Invitational, the Avalon Billfish Classic and the Catalina Classic.

While the striped marlin fishing was tough, nearly every crew at least saw fish and had a chance at the big prizes up for grabs. But at the end of the day, the teams on Chaser, a 54-foot Viking with Capt. Jimmy Kingsmill at the helm, and California Style, a 50-foot Pacifica led by Burl Gregory and G.J. Sacco, were the big winners.

Chaser won the opening event of the California Billfish Series, the Zane Grey Invitational, with three striped marlin releases. Chaser leapfrogged over Chiqelin, which released the first striped marlin of the series on Day 1 of the Zane Grey, with Capt. Mike “Beak” Hurt at the wheel and angler Rich Raffieny manning the fishing rod.

The fishing really picked up on Day 2 of the Zane Grey. Just a few minutes after Chaser released its first striped marlin of Day 2, the crew on Gambler, a 73-foot Nordlund, hit a hot spot and managed to hook a double-header on bait.

Unfortunately, one of the fish came unbuttoned, but angler Billy Miyagawa Sr., who is no stranger to fishing the California Billfish Series, managed to get his striped marlin to the boat and record release for his team at 9:04 a.m.

Chaser added another release on the day to finish with three striped marlin releases — enough to take home first-place honors and nearly $32,000 in cash.

The teams on Chiqelin and Gambler both released one striped marlin each, but Chiqelin won second-place honors based on time and took home a check worth $26,392. Gambler finished in third place and won $1,920.

The bite looked promising for the next tournaments on the agenda, the Avalon Billfish Classic and the Catalina Classic, which were fished simultaneously on Catalina Island, taking place Sept. 23-25.

The Avalon Billfish Classic and the Catalina Classic began with an opening day party at Descanso Beach. As teams registered, they were greeted by sponsors, handed captain’s bags full of swag and invited to take part in the annual casting contest and fighting chair contest. Geoff D’Sena of the End of the Line team hit the most targets to win the casting contest and a brand-new Phenix rod with a Penn Torque reel. The weather was perfect and everyone planned their fishing strategies.

Most boats headed toward San Clemente Island after the shotgun start on Day 1 — and that’s where California Style would find the winning fish. California Style called in the first hook-up of the event at 9:30 a.m. Christian Petersen hooked and boated a 142.5-pound, 81.5-inch striped marlin.

California Style was back on the radio on Day 2, calling in more hook-ups. The action for the team started just after 10:45 a.m. when G.J. Sacco hooked a fish on a live bait. He battled the leaping striped marlin for nearly an hour when the fish came unbuttoned and swam off.

It was a tough break for the leading team, but they didn’t give up and they found another fish at noon. This striped marlin was hooked on a live bait, also by Sacco, and he wasn’t about to lose it. In just 15 minutes, he got the fish to the boat and made the call to release it.

With one release and one qualifying marlin, California Style swept the Catalina Classic to take home $66,950 in cash. The team also won brand-new Costa sunglasses and a set of custom-made trophies featuring three leaping marlin on solid black bases.

California Style’s performance netted it the $25,000 rollover money from the 2011 Catalina Classic, as well as the basic entry category and the $250 optional dailies for both Day 1 and Day 2.
For more information on the California Billfish Series, visit or contact tournament director Ali Hussainy at or call (858) 560-5525.

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