In 1970 the BHM&TC started the White Marlin Invitational Tournament, it was the brainchild of Captain Joe Bossard who ran club member Bob Gaskill’s Bee Dee. Bossard had been fishing up and down the coast, spending time from Manasquan to Florida and then coming to Beach Haven, so he had the connections to attract anglers from up and down the coast.
Many early club members had also been fishing up and down the coast and invited offshore anglers to come to Beach Haven to sample the good fishing. Awaiting them was a nice clubhouse, great meals each night and good camaraderie with a group of dedicated offshore fisherman.
The tournament was a favorite for many anglers including long time Brielle angler Adam Sanford who fished his Adam’s Folly in the tournament for years. According to Sanford, “Beach Haven was great because we got fish alongside good fisherman at a time when the white marlin fishing was good, and then we got to visit with each other every evening with good food and company. It was a really fun tournament.”
After Bossard, the tournament was run for years by Don Leek who also had the pull to bring boats from other ports to town. Leek and his wife Jane fished their Wild Duck from Palm Beach to the Bahamas, Hatteras and up the coast. Leek was a long time white marlin aficionado, having fished offshore on the families Pacemaker and Egg Harbor company boats since the early sixties. He had also been written about in several magazines and books of the time about his quest fishing the offshore grounds for the cunning white marlin.
Visiting anglers fishing for white marlin alongside an impressive lineup of club member boats including Piney Parker’s ABC, Dick Ryon’s Anthracite, Don Leek’s Wild Duck, Walter Johnson’s J&T, Bill Spolar’s 42’ Merritt Cat’s Meow, Gus Natelli’s Goofy Gus, Pete Palmorozza’s SeaFern, Jack Rich’s Business and host of others too long to mention. The tournament was known as a first class event and flourished through the 70’s and into the 80’s with good food, a good bar, fishing and camaraderie.
In the 70’s and up to the mid-80’s a true Calcutta was held at a member home where each boat was auctioned off. This was a very social get together and an opportunity to assess the competition. If someone bid up your boat in the auction and you could not buy your boat yourself, you had the opportunity to buy half of it back so if you did win, you shared the money with the person that bought you. It always made for a fun afternoon with allot of laughs! At some point the original “Calcutta” format was dropped for the flat fee “pots” for heaviest white marlin and tuna winnings.
In the early days of the tournament the boats fishing would stage in front of Morrison’s Marina and a crowd would gather to watch the boats leaving in the early morning darkness with their running lights on. They would start the parade and follow a local boat down the bay and out the inlet. No passing was allowed as the channel was narrow and shoal on either side and the inlet always had a bit of a dog-leg in it with unlit markers. Once the boats reached the bell buoy, they could hook up and run. It was always a great sight to see the boats set their course for the run to the canyon with captains taking note of who went where so if they had action, you would know where they were.
In the evening the clubhouse is always abuzz, drawing a crowd to watch the boats line up for weight-in. With their flags flying, excited spectators watch the boats come to the scales and weigh-in their catch.
Today, the tournament is fished from several ports allowing boats fishing from those ports to weigh-in at those ports. The White Marlin Invitational fishing from the historic sportfishing port of Beach Haven remains a favorite event on the schedule of tournament fisherman. Despite shoaling in the inlet and the shallow bay, the clubhouse is still a hub of activity during the event and always a welcoming beacon to visiting anglers from up and down the coast.
May 10, 2017
Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club
White Marlin Invitational Tournament History
Photo & Asset Credits
IGFA/IGFA.ORG, Capt. Gene Hawn Collection, Barry Parker Collection, Karl Anderson Collection, Walter Johnson III Collection