Posts Tagged ‘The Billfish Foundation’

Faces of the ECBC | Steve Levi, Video Judge

Faces of the ECBC | Steve Levi, Video Judge

May 29, 2013 | Sam White

Making the call on whether a billfish be scored as a release during a tournament is a tough and often thankless job. But despite the stress levels, it’s also intensely rewarding for those judges who have dedicated themselves to the concept of catch-and-release billfishing.

When points differ between species and tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars could be on the line, it’s good to know the person doing the judging has the experience and qualifications to make an accurate ruling.

We spoke with Steve Levi recently who, along with Dewey Blaylock, does the release video judging for the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Here’s what he had to say about his background, his experience with being an observer and release verification judge, along with tips for release videos:

How long have you been fishing and judging releases?
“I started my saltwater fishing career with my father in Dauphin Island, Alabama and it escalated to chasing marlin and sailfish in the Gulf of Mexico and internationally after that. I started as an observer in 1995 in the Boy Scout tournament on St. Thomas—this was before the IGFA started their official observer certification program where I later served as an instructor. I’m the video verification judge for several of the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club tournaments and have been with the ECBC almost every year since it started. Over the years I’ve reviewed hundreds of videos that have been worth tens of thousands of dollars.”

What makes for the perfect release video review?
“For Dewey and me it only takes about five minutes to review a video if it’s set up correctly and the video is rewound to the start of the action. We need to have a good look at the fish, and that means getting the pectoral and anal fins in case we need to tell if it’s a white marlin from a blue marlin. We also need to see the angler, the tournament designator, the official release where the mate touches the leader or the knot hits the rod tip, and the GPS with the date and time of release, all in one clip. That would be the perfect video review. We call it video verifying, not disqualifying—we want everyone to get their points for a release, so if it takes a little extra time that’s fine with us.”

What are some common mistakes people can avoid when they’re shooting release videos?
“Some problem areas are things like an unclear shot due to water spots or condensation on the camera lens—always keep it clean! Then there are having different shots on different cameras: the release is on one, the tournament designator on another one and the GPS on the third camera. Try to get everything you need on one camera and in one shot without turning it off and on again. Over-zooming and moving the camera around too much is another issue. You’re a lot better off to keep it on a wide angle and stay in one place to make sure you get the shot.”

A Note from the Writer…
I wrote an article last year called Video Verification – Shoot to Win. Now would be the perfect time to give it a review!

Additional Information
• Sign up for our newsletter.
• For more information about the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic visit our website:
• To contact the Tournament Director email Shawna Harris or call 850-267-6168.
• Use the following link to download an entry form: 2013 Entry Form.

The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is hosted by Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and presented by Mojo Sportfishing Gear.


MGCBC 2013 Total Purse – $1.5 Million is well within reach!


By Capt. Dave Lear
It will be a title worthy of its namesake. When fishing ends and all the scores are finally tabulated, the top boat in the 2013 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic will receive the Sonny Middleton Award. The new distinction was created in honor of Ralph “Sonny” Middleton, the owner of Dog River Marina and A&M Yacht Sales in Mobile, Alabama. Middleton is a tireless advocate for the sport-fishing community and conservation in the central Gulf.

“Sonny has a heart of gold and he’s supported the Classic since Day One,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “He’s well-liked and well-respected by everyone. He has always been willing to share ideas on ways we can improve the tournament and he’s been a champion of billfish conservation for as long as I can remember. It’s only fitting that the Classic’s Top Boat Award is now named in his honor.”

Last October, Middleton was the recipient of The Billfish Foundation’s Rybovich Lifetime Achievement Award. Created in honor of the late John Rybovich, the legendary boat-builder and early conservation advocate, it is the foundation’s most distinguished award.

“Your long-term commitment to billfish conservation, sport-fishing tournaments and the recreational boating industry throughout the Gulf of Mexico has been exemplary,” noted TBF President Ellen Peel. “In advancing each of these endeavors as owner and operator of Dog River Marina you have maintained a level of integrity and positive community involvement far beyond what is necessary for business success. You are a legend in the Gulf, one that TBF is proud to be associated with and to honor.”

“This is a total surprise,” Middleton said when he learned of the newly-created Classic award. “I’ve been blessed. My dad was in the boat business and I took it over many, many years ago. But I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life, it’s all just been a lot of fun. I have to give all the credit to my 37 great employees, who are my big family, plus all our great customers and great captains. I owe it all to them.

“When we first started there were only a couple tournaments in the Gulf. But Bobby and his crew have done a good job of building a first-class event. It’s in an excellent spot, it’s good for the economy and everybody has a fun time. We’re proud to have been a part of it since the beginning.”

The 2013 Classic kicks off Monday, June 3, with a welcome party. The festivities continue the next night with a dockside party at the Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi. Following the Go Deep Golf Scramble Wednesday morning, there will be the mandatory captains meeting Wednesday at the Golden Nugget Casino, the host resort. The boat parade gets underway at noon on Thursday, with fishing continuing through Saturday. Scales open at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday and all boats must be checked in by 9 p.m. Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, tired but happy anglers and crew will gather in the Golden Nugget to collect the numerous trophies and checks. But only one boat will receive the top honor–the Sonny Middleton Award–and that will be a fitting tribute.

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