PORT O’CONNOR — Last year’s Lone Star Shootout saw the number of boats depleted from previous years.

Yet after sending off 35 boats last year, the Shootout is expecting between 45 and 50 boats for the first leg of the Texas Triple Crown Billfish Series.

“I think because of last year, this year’s special,” said Tournament Director Randy Bright. “I think that’s happening in a lot of events, but this one in particular. Some tournaments were not able to have an event last year. We did. We made a lot of adjustments. We had a hurricane that pushed us a week. We had COVID things that totally changed the format of how we did things. There’s been some other tournaments in the Gulf to the east of us, but this is the first big tournament in Texas.”

Port O’Connor has hosted the tournament for 11 years now, and boats throughout the Coastal Bend are flocking to the jetties to fish for blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish.

Boats depart the Port O’Connor Jetties at 5 p.m. Thursday and must return by 6 p.m. Saturday for their catches to qualify.

“One of the unique things about our tournament is we’re 100% charity,” Bright said. “I’m 100% volunteer. I have a great team that’s been up here working. The young people who come down to help us register are all volunteers.”

All the money raised by the tournament goes to the Houston Big Game Fishing Club’s charitable funds, which supports scholarship funds, fish conservation activities and youth marine camps, etc.

“That’s one of the things that sets us apart. There isn’t anybody that profits off of this event,” Bright said. “No promoters, and I think that’s appeal for these people to know, ‘Hey, we’re gonna come spend some money, a lot of money, but we’re going to have a good time doing it, and at the end of the day we’re not doing it for somebody’s profit. We’re doing it to raise money for charity.”

Winners are determined by the total number of points scored.

A release blue marlin scores 750 points, white marlin 200, and sailfish 100, while caught fish score an extra one point per pound at the weigh station.

The tournament encourages contestants to follow catch and release guidelines to preserve the marlin population. But the special catches that are brought to the weigh station are the main attraction.

“The excitement for these guys, that’s one of the things that keeps them coming back,” Bright said. “Besides their thrill while they’re out there fishing, catching the fish, it is a huge thrill for them to back up to the weigh station, and here in Port O’Connor it’s open to the public, no charge, so we’ll have a thousand people down there lining the street, cheering. They came to see the big boats and see the big fish. So for the guys on the boat to be standing there and back up to that crowd, it’s a huge thrill.”

The winner is likely to be determined by the boat that catches the most marlin.

The thrill of the last day is what Bright is looking forward to. The guy that could go from 10th place to 1st.

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