Orange Beach Billfish Classic, May 22, 2022—In what has become a bit of a recent tradition that tournament organizers would be happy to see come to an end, the 26th Annual Orange Beach Billfish Classic had to adjust this year’s tournament schedule due to a forecast calling for rough seas. The originally scheduled final day of the tournament, Saturday, May 21st, was looking to be rather sporty offshore.
41 teams competing for $850,000 in prize money were happy to depart a day early and return for a one-night weigh-in celebration at The Wharf in Orange Beach on Friday, May 20th. With five boats reporting they were bringing a blue marlin to the scales, the large crowd was ready and waiting to see the first blue marlin weighed as soon as the scales opened at 6PM.
Amigo, a 68′ Viking from Port O’Connor, TX, boated their fish early on Friday morning, and Captain Brad Schoenfeld backed into the weigh-in slip, waiting for the scales to open. Angler David Denbow’s marlin measured 111″ inches and weighed 507.8 pounds, but he knew they were in for some anxious waiting with four more fish to be weighed. “We are so proud and excited about this fish. To bring one in during a tournament of this caliber is a special accomplishment. But there are some of the best teams in the world fishing this tournament, and we know it will be tough to hold onto the top spot.”
The next team to the scales was another Texas Viking, the 92′ High Cotton, with the longest fish of the tournament at 114″ inches. As the beautiful fish was hoisted to the scale, every onlooker immediately knew this would be the fish to beat with its most impressive girth. The ‘fat fish’ caught by angler Cole Ogden weighed an even 642 pounds to take over the top spot in the tournament, a position it would not relinquish.
“Perseverance definitely paid off for us this weekend,” said Captain Allen Legge after losing a fish he described as 700-800 pounds after a three-hour-plus battle. “We were able to collect ourselves, everyone stayed positive, and then we got another shot with this amazing fish.”
Briar Patch, a 68′ Viking from Destin, FL, next weighed a 109″ 475-pound fish to move into 3rd place temporarily.
Second Wind, a 72′ F & S from Empire, LA, had a mechanical failure at the dock before the start of the tournament causing their departure to be delayed by several hours. But Captain Marlin Brown and angler Nathan Jurisich made the most of their time as their 113″ marlin weighed 547.4 pounds, vaulting them into 2nd place.
The final marlin of the evening came from A Work of Art, a 92 Viking from Orange Beach, AL. When the 108″ fish was reported to tournament officials, Captain Jason Buck said, “It’s a fat one!” And he wasn’t exaggerating! The shortest fish of the tournament caught by Christian Fast weighed in at 514.2 pounds securing a third-place finish in the tournament. “What a great start to the season here on the Gulf Coast,” said owner Art Farve. “Great participation by the teams, a lot of us didn’t run all that far, and the fish were biting this weekend!”
CE, an 80′ Viking from Point Clear, AL, took home top Catch and Release honors with three blue marlin and two white marlin releases. Their names will forever be engraved on the Johnny Johnson Top Catch and Release Memorial Tournament Trophy.
A Work of Art, in addition to their 3rd place finish in the blue marlin category, also finished in 2nd place in Catch and Release with three blue marlin and one white marlin release. Panhandler, a 63′ Hatteras out of Pensacola, FL, also released three blue marlin and a white marlin to finish in 3rd place.
Miss Remy, won the tuna division with a 161.4-pound yellowfin, followed by Fins Up at 133.6 in 2nd place and Mollie in 3rd at 108.4
A 47-pound wahoo caught by Sunrise was the largest of the tournament. Perseverance came in 2nd at 39.6-pounds, and Panhandler was third at 21.8-pounds.
Mon Chari caught the largest dolphin at 41.4-pounds. Big Valley was next at 31.6-pounds with Fins Up grabbing a third-place finish with their 30.8-pound fish.
The Top Lady Angler was Jaselyn Berthelot on Rising Sons with two blue marlin releases.
The top three money-winning boats were A Work of Art at $258,790, High Cotton with $152,500, and Second Wind at $79,710.
Twenty-six verified blue marlin releases were scored in the tournament, along with nine white marlin releases for a total of thirty-five billfish released.
The Orange Beach Billfish Classic is the world’s largest tournament donor to The Billfish Foundation and will return for a 27th year in May of 2023.