MBGFC Memorial Day Tournament, 1st Place – 500 pts.
MBGFC Memorial Day Tournament, Heaviest Marlin – 613.8 lbs. – 500 pts.
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, Heaviest Marlin – 660.4 lbs. – 500 pts.
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, 3rd Place – 100 pts.
MBGFC Invitational Labor Day Tournament, 1st Place – 500 pts.
Despite the coronavirus cloud, what a year it was for the Gulf. Our Gulf Coast Division kicked off with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, where more than 90 blue marlin were released. For Destin’s Capt. Jeff Shoults and his crew aboard the 66-foot G&S Mollie, it was business as usual, though this program is significantly different than many others competing in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Most of what we do is bottom fishing for grouper, snapper and amberjacks. Then I get to fish the six or seven tournaments a year. And really, that’s the only time we get to billfish. It’s just different for us, I’m doing it with people that have never even seen a blue marlin before. Jason Buck and I have had this conversation a lot of times. Ninety-five percent of what he does is ride around with his sonar catching blue marlin. Ninety-five percent of what I do is entertain corporate clients by taking them bottom fishing,” Shoults says.
We all know the importance of having a competent crew, but this is particularly important for Shoults considering the experience of his tournament anglers. “I have my main deckhand Chance Young and we typically have a second mate, this year it was Sawyer Henderson. In a tournament, I’ll take another deckhand, Josh Goodson. We fished six tournaments this summer, caught 20 blue marlin and nine of them were the first blue marlin the anglers had ever caught. Our success is a testament to my crew,” he added.
Shoults has been with the Mollie program for 30 years, which is on its third G&S. His even-keeled nature and eye for detail have resulted in sustained tournament success for many years. As is the case with many fisheries, the tactics and techniques employed in the Gulf have seen dramatic changes over the years. “I’ve watched the Gulf go from trolling bonito strips, ballyhoo and mullet, to live baiting and sonar, so I’m learning to adapt and change with everything that’s going on.
We had a great season, but for about the last five years we’ve done exceptionally well. This year just made it that much better getting to weigh two 600-pound fish. Memorial Day not only did we have the big fish, but we also had the tag and release as well. How many times do you enter a tournament and win both divisions? Then in the Sandestin we had the big fish and third place tag and release—and we pulled off a blue and a white, so we almost won tag and release again,” Shoults says.
Many of the Gulf tournaments are set up so boats can leave at noon. “We are running to the oil rigs and from Destin the closest one we’re going to fish is about 120 miles. In the Sandestin we pull up to our first rig, throw baits in the water and release a fish right off the bat, which was just incredible. And then we ran on down to the next rig and sure enough, we pull up and there was absolutely nobody there. When you have 80 boats in a tournament you figure you’re going to be fishing with somebody. We got lucky enough there was no one there and we caught a fish right away. Caught another one thirty minutes later, then we hooked the big fish. We had it in the boat by 10:00 that morning. Everything worked. It was just our turn.”
The beauty is always the journey and this one couldn’t have been scripted any better.
- 2020 Capt. Jeff Shoults // Mollie // 2100 Points
- 2019 Capt. Jason Buck //Done Deal // 2100 Points
- 2018 Capt. Jason Buck // Done Deal // 2150 Points
- 2017 Capt. Jason Buck //Done Deal // 1400 Points
- 2016 Capt. Devin Potts // Sea Mixer // 1100 Points
- 2015 Capt. Robbie Doggett // Relentless Pursuit // 1750 Points
- 2014 Capt. Jason Buck // Done Deal // 1950 Points