Blue Marlin Grand Championship, July 29, 2021—Thirty minutes after the fifty-eight tournament teams entered into the 2021 Blue Marlin Grand Championship at The Wharf departed Orange Beach, all but one was headed to their first stop in hopes of winning The Greatest Show in Sportfishing. One boat, Skin Deep, a 63’ Ricky Scarborough, suffered a major mechanical failure and began limping
back toward Perdido Pass. After a haul-out revealed a broken prop and a damaged strut, it seemed their tournament weekend was all but over.
“Our Captain, Kyle Smith just refused to let us get dejected, and that’s when we started coming up with a backup plan,” said boat owner Chris Haley from Orange Beach. “We started calling friends and industry contacts trying to find out if there was another boat we could borrow and somehow still fish the tournament.”
A friend of the crew, Joe Jernigan, owned a local charter boat, Feeling Nauti, based at The Wharf, and he offered it to team Skin Deep for the weekend. “Joe was nice enough to let us use his boat, and so we transferred all of our gear from our boat to his and left just before dark, about eight hours after everyone else.”
After chugging all night, the team put out a trolling spread at daylight because the borrowed boat lacked tuna tubes, so live baiting wasn’t an option. But within forty-five minutes, they were hooked up with a fish they knew was a potential tournament winner. After a few hours with angler Patrick Haley in the chair, the team boated the 116” fish and was on their way back to The Wharf for the Friday night weigh-ins with reports circulating of multiple fish also coming to join them.
Skin Deep was the first fish to weigh in at 575.2 pounds. Three more blue marlin would be brought to the scale on the opening night of weigh-ins. Hall Pass, a Louisiana-based Freeman, weighed a 534.40 pound Blue marlin, followed by Lisa Jo, the 55’ Ricky Scarborough from Orange Beach, weighing a 516.40 pound blue marlin. Friday night’s last fish created the most drama as it looked as though it could be a clone of the first fish weighed of the evening. When weigh master Craig Martin revealed the weight of 572.20 from the 2020 Blue Marlin Grand Championship winner Pearl, a 2003 Viking from Orange Beach, owner Andy Yarbrough was obviously a little disappointed at being in second place.
But he also quickly told the crowd, “It’s still a great fish that we are very proud of, but at the same time, I’m also very happy for Chris and Captain Kyle for what they went through to catch their fish.”
Saturday night saw four more blue marlin get weighed. Rascal, a new 65’ Hatteras from Orange Beach, was first with a 563.00-pound fish. Team Layton, fishing on the G&S from Destin Sea Wolffe, hoisted a 482.80 blue. Then it was the Venice-based Viking Crawgator with a 501.00 blue marlin and Southern Charm, a 63’ Hatteras from Orange Beach weighing the final blue marlin of the tournament, which was a 471.00. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship uses a hybrid scoring system of both weighed fish and catch and release points to determine the top four spots in the tournament. Skin Deep’s blue marlin was the single heaviest fish weighed in the tournament, securing them the top spot as Grand Champion, earning a payout of $356,625.00 of the $1,3900,000 in total prize money.
“This is a surreal moment for sure,” said a champagne drenched Haley as his team celebrated becoming the ninth team ever to win the Blue Marlin Grand Championship. “It’s a great fishing story that never gets told without the fishing community coming together to help us when we needed it most this weekend.”
Finishing second overall was All In, with Captain Blake Bridges and crew releasing four blue marlin for $232,200. Hall Pass, with their weighed blue marlin, and by releasing another blue marlin, came in third place winning $121,275, and Done Deal with three blue marlin released rounded out the leaderboard in fourth place and a check for $102,495.
Josh Collier caught the heaviest tuna in the tournament from Intense at 154.20. Angler Brian Wilson on Wynsong weighed the heaviest Dolphin at 32.80 pounds, while Breathe Reel Deep’s Shay Clemmons had the top Wahoo at 73.40 pounds.
The Blue Marlin Grand Championship returns to The Wharf in Orange Beach July 13-17, 2022.