Los Angeles Billfish Club

In 1970 the L A Billfish Club had ventured south to participate in the 12th Annual Marlin Club Invitational Light Tackle (Marlin) Tournament (aka ILTT). They ("LITTLE WHITE WHALE") not only did well, but took 2 fish off Pyramid late on the 2nd day of competition, ran back to San Diego and wound up winning the tournament to the dismay of the locals. The team, as pictured, was Frank Hedge, Kenny Lightner, and the fellow behind the moustache our own Geoff Halpern. 


   In 1971 Bob Flamer, Al Epstein, Bruce Kessler, myself and later Kenny Cohen and Jordy Weitzman all joined the LABC with the monthly meetings at the Corsican restaurant in town. There we met Geoff Halpern, Kenny Lightner, Dennis Gagnon and all the others including of course, Sanbo Sakaguchi and Frank Hedge. Shortly after we (the organizers), strongly urged by Jan Flamer and Ms. Carolyn, began the process of the Club having our own tournament fishing out of Avalon on Catalina Island. The Club was a little hesitant at first fearing that it might flop and reflect badly on the Club.

    The entire process was spear-headed by Bob Flamer who led the way and eventually "ran" the tournament for the 1st three years. That first year the entire Club pitched in with some nice gifts for all the participants, nice awards, and nice dining at the Island Country Club. We had patches made for all participants. A first class production.

    We followed the rules of the Marlin Club ILTT and had a 30 pound line straight "kill" tournament. But we made this a 3-day event (Thurs, Fri, and Sat) - enjoyed by all. We also included Broadbill in this, a Billfish tournament. 

    Another twist is that we contacted Loren Gray, son of Zane Gray, and he fished with us on the Ken-Dan that year, giving the tournament a little class. In addition, the Tuna Club of Avalon pitched in and hosted a cocktail party on the porch of the Club.

    There were 27 boats participating. There was only one fish caught on each of the 1st 2 days, but on the 3rd day around 7 fish were taken (or was it 5?). The winning fish was hooked in the last minute before "stop fishing" and was brought in while the awards dinner was in process. The fish was caught by Don Goodwin on the "JUPAL" and one of his team-mates was a familiar name - Harry Okuda. There was a little controversy when Bob Roulette, whose team had the 2nd Place fish claimed that the "JUPAL" actually hooked up "after hours." But no formal protest and it ended smoothly.

    From then on the tournament went well with ever increasing numbers of participants to a maximum of 113 boats. As noted, Bob Flamer chaired the event for 3 years. We rapidly outgrew the Country Club and in the 4th year of the tournament I took over for the next 3 years. We moved to the ballroom of the Casino. I had the inspiration of making the room a little smaller by getting the display boards used for the Avalon art festival and using them to line across the dance floor cutting the room in half. I then got copies of all the fish caught during the previous year's events and had black & white enlargements made. Carolyn, Geoff and I brought all the goodies for the tournament, unloaded them ourselves, brought them up to the ballroom and posted the pictures on the display boards with lots of colorful decorations. The end result was, I might say, not quite spectacular, but quite impressive. All the anglers loved seeing their pictures up on the boards.

    Over the course of 18 years I ran the tournament 4 1/2 years (helping Lance Kluger 1 year), Bob the 3 years, and others by Jordy Weitzman, Dennis Gagnon, Kenny Cohen, etc., 4 teams won the tournament twice (JOJO IV, LEGEND, ATUN, and, yes, the KEN-DAN). Only 1 boat (at least in name) fishing in all 18 tournaments - 3 guesses and the 1st 2 don't count.

   Each year we gave to each participating angler some mementos of their participation. This included patches, hats, and laser-craft angler participation plaques (link to photo). In addition we added different items each year including various glasses, trays, and tote bags (1974), shrink-wrapped sets of cups (1976, 81, and 84), pencil holder (1977), and even light weight wind-breaker jackets (1988).

Eventually, the talk of releasing was starting and there was expected hesitancy because of the factor of distrust. In order to make it more acceptable, it was decided to have 1/3 of the boats paired off with exchange of non-fishing observers and that worked reasonably well. The next year we went to all boats paired off. Then, we paired the boats in 3 categories by size exchanging fishing observers (that year both we and Jordy Weitzman's "HAVEN") had 2 observer fish each. Then, we finally went to an all, non-observer release tournament. And then we went to the 30, 20 and 12 pound options with appropriate scoring.

    This was done by a club of only 55 members, only about 25 really active, and no more than 10 doing 95% of the work. Invariably, there was internal squabbling with the non-workers bitching and complaining about the doers, regardless of the success of the tournament. Finally, those of us who had done most of the work told the others to go ahead and do it themselves. One member volunteered, but when he found out what was involved he simply stepped down and that was the end of it.

    Meanwhile, we were the first club on the west coast to allow the women to fish as members of mixed teams (i.e. no ladies category), introduce releasing into tournament fishing, and the 12 pound category. The success of this tournament by this little club irritated some of the older, well established organizations and, first one dropped out, and then another started a tournament of their own.

1974 - Bob Flamer (with his very attractive crew)

1975 - 1st Broadbill in the tournament taken by Sanbo Sakaguchi on the - yes, "KEN-DAN" - 177 pounds


1976 - Carolyn got one (with her very attractive crew)

1977 - A double on the ZOPILOTE by Bruce Kessler & Harry Okuda


9-25-79     Geoff , Al and I went prospecting.


1981 - An observer released fish on the "Ken-Dan" by Andy Crean

1984 - Tough Year


1989 - Geoff & I decided that we are going to go "for broke"