TEXAS CITY – The competition and size of the top catches are growing and growing as the 52nd Annual Tackle Time fishing tournament heads into its home stretch this weekend.

After poor weather conditions in the first couple of days of the tournament just more than a week ago caused a slow start, participation has picked up throughout this week as area fishermen have jostled for top rankings on the Tackle Time leaderboard.

“Now it looks like they made it out and are starting to bring in some pretty big fish,” Tackle Time organizer Sean Doyle said.

On Thursday, the biggest catch of them all belonged to longtime fisherman C.B. Bailey.

Earlier that morning, Bailey spent more than an hour subduing a 598-pound tiger shark.

In 30 to 40 years of fishing for sharks, Bailey said his all-time largest catch was a state-record 864-pound tiger shark, so Thursday’s catch, which he hooked about 50 miles off the Galveston shore using a small 6-pound stingray as bait, was not the 70-year-old’s first rodeo.

After decades of competing in the Tackle Time event and with multiple awards from it, Bailey said he still looks forward to competing along with the tight-knit fishing community every year.

“It’s a lot of fun; it’s a lot like a family,” said Bailey, who started a local fishing club more than 40 years ago. “Everybody looks forward to Tackle Time every year.”

In a sign of just how competitive this year’s Tackle Time is, Bailey’s nearly 600-pound tiger shark was knocked from the top of the leaderboard by a 629-pound tiger shark landed by Avery Fuller.

Others atop the offshore division’s leaderboard, as of Friday afternoon, included Freddy Ramos in the open division with a 20-pound dorado.

James Massa led the ling division with a 51-pounder, and Chuck James was ahead in the kingfish contest with a 10-pound catch.

In the inshore division, leaders on Friday were: Mark Holt in speckled trout (7 pounds), Jason Williamson in flounder (4 pounds), Ricky Wilkenfeld in stingray (179 pounds), Joeldan Flisowski in gar (92 pounds), Darrell Holmes in sheepshead (6 pounds), Mike Harris in jackfish (29 pounds), Roger Robinson in gafftop (6 pounds) and John Woodcock in redfish (10 pounds).

In the inshore youth division, leaders on Friday were: Adrian Flores in sand trout (3 pounds), Ashton Harris in croaker (1 pound), Brandon Henscey in hardhead (3 pounds) and Henscey in blue crab (9 inches).

By Thursday, there had been more than 450 Tackle Time entry tickets sold, and Doyle said that, with a strong holiday weekend push, the event hopes to beat last year’s tally of 550 tickets and reach its goal of 600 tickets sold.

“We have our trout division with heavy money this year,” Doyle said. “We want to encourage fishermen to get out there and fish for the inshore and offshore divisions and encourage the youth division for kids younger than the age of 15. It’s a great event, and we’re looking to grow it year after year.”

The tournament concludes at noon Sunday. The Tackle Time winners will be presented with their awards at the event’s closing ceremonies, which are scheduled to begin at about 1:30 p.m. at the First Lady Pavilion at the Texas City Dike.

Contact Sports Editor James LaCombe at 409-683-5242 or james.lacombe@galvnews.com.

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