Billfish Tournament

SAVE THE DATES September 5th to 7th 2024

Billfish Tournament Hosts: Bob & Sally Kurz

About The Billfish

In 1994, Catalina Island Yacht Club (CIYC) members Bill Melville and Jerry Lewis co-founded the CIYC Billfish Invitational. Inspired by Bill’s cousin, who had organized the Church Mouse Marlin Invitational in Avalon two years prior, Bill and Jerry thought it would be a good way to raise money while doing something they were passionate about. And so began a great tradition that has given both Club members and other sportsmen a challenging and fun event while benefitting Island charities.

Randy Weaver and Anthony Salcido took over the helm in 2008 and worked very hard during the next 11 years to raise at least $20,000 annually, which included proceeds from raffle prizes generously donated by local businesses and individuals. These funds help support Avalon Search and Rescue, Catalina Island Medical Center, and Avalon charities supporting kids’ programs.

For 20 years, Cheryl Melville, S/C Connie Wiseman, Julie Christiansen, and Sandy Shugart, affectionately known as “The Galley Slaves” cooked all the food. In 2013, the Tournament’s 20th Anniversary, the Galley Slaves declared their freedom from cooking and retired. Since then, the same menu has been prepared by a local caterer, Margie Wahl, along with a hosted bar on Thursday and Saturday nights generously donated by Cheryl Melville.

The Invitational begins each year with a Captain’s Meeting on Thursday night. Rules are covered and strategies laid out, all with an abundance of fine food and drink.

Friday morning, it’s lines in at 6 a.m. Some participants will leave in the dark of the night on Thursday to travel elsewhere in search of hot spots. Others may not venture far from the harbor.

Typically, the first marlin caught wins the tournament, unless another boat catches two. However, there’s always line-class to consider. If a marlin is caught on 50 lb. test line, and another team catches one on 30 lb. test line, the team catching their fish on lighter tackle would be ahead in the standings. Teams may use 20#, 30#, 50# and 80# test line in the tournament.

To keep things interesting, the Tournament also includes a Gamefish Division. Any of the following species qualify – tuna, dorado, wahoo, yellowtail, and white seabass. Each catch is taken to the Green Pier by 4:00 p.m. on Saturday to get an official weight slip to be submitted to the Tournament Committee.

Some boats choose to stay out Friday night. However, teams fishing close by can come into the Club on Friday evening for drinks, appetizers and to swap fish stories.

All teams are required to be back in Avalon Harbor on Saturday by 4 p.m. to turn in photos showing their marlin or swordfish alongside the boat with leader in hand.

A sit-down dinner consisting of Swordfish steaks, barbecued by Club members, is always enjoyed by a hungry crowd of approximately 120 anglers and guests. The awards program and raffle follow dinner.

Unfortunately, the Tournament had to be paused in 2020-2021 due to COVID. In 2022, Bob and Sally Kurz were set to host the Tournament, but Hurricane Kay forced it to be postponed once again. In 2023, the Billfish Invitational was finally relaunched with a record number of boats and $35,000 raised for Island Charities. Team Dialed Inn took First Place honors releasing a Striped marlin on the first day. Team Parlay won the Gamefish Division catching a Bluefin Tuna weighing 175 pounds.

The 2024, the CIYC Billfish Invitational will be held September 5th – 7th. Invitations will be sent out beginning in March. If you would like to participate email either Bob Kurz at or Sally Kurz at