In Memoriam: IGFA Tommy Gifford Awardee Billy Fairbairn
In fond remembrance of Captain Billy Fairbairn, a true luminary in the esteemed Cairns recreational fishing industry. Revered as a "living legend" and rightfully recognized among the Top 10 deck hands of all time by Marlin Magazine, Billy's legacy spans over four decades, characterized by an unwavering commitment to excellence in his profession. His journey began in the early 1970s on a commercial boat alongside a family friend, but it was in 1974, during a pivotal big game fishing expedition as the guest of renowned Australian anglers Johnno Johnson and Ernie Palmer, that Billy's passion for recreational fishing truly ignited. Two giant black marlin later, he exclaimed, "Wow, this is love at first bite!"
Despite his unparalleled skills in the cockpit, innovative techniques, and mastery of tackle, Billy Fairbairn remained a model of modesty. Always content to stay in the background, he was the unsung hero behind the remarkable catches for which he was largely responsible. His willingness to share knowledge and insights endeared him to all who had the privilege of working alongside him. In 2016, the Cairns Fishing Hall of Fame proudly inducted Billy into its inaugural class, a testament to the indelible mark he left on the industry.
Even as we bid farewell to this extraordinary individual, Captain Billy Fairbairn's spirit lives on in the currents of the Cairns fishery. His legacy is not only etched in the records of impressive catches but also in the hearts of those fortunate enough to know him. Fair winds and following seas, Captain Billy – may your eternal fishing grounds be as bountiful as the memories you've left behind.
In 2022, the IGFA honored Billy at the IGFA Tommy Gifford Awards. Though unable to attend due to his poor health, Captain Karl Anderson spoke highly of Billy's accomplishments as a premier deck hand in the Cairns fishing industry. At the 1-hour and 2-minute time stamp, you can watch as Billy is honored at the event.