2022 Furuno Gulf Coast Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Landon Bell
Southern Charm // 1,800 points
Louisiana Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
3rd Place – 100 pts.
New Orleans Invitational Tournament
2nd Place – 300 pts.
Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic
1st Place – 500 pts.
Blue Marlin Grand Championship
2nd Place – 300 pts.
White Marlin Shootout
3rd Place – 100 pts.
MBGFC Labor Day Tournament
1st Place – 500 pts.
By Seth Dotson
For Capt. Landon Bell of Orange Beach, Alabama, competitive tournament fishing always seemed like something of a side gig, an excursion of sorts to compliment his day job as a charter captain.
“I’ve always charter fished. I’ve run inshore charters and offshore charters,” reflects Bell. “I’ve done that for the last 15 years or so, and I’ve fished tournaments at the same time as I’ve been charter fishing. I ended up taking a job with Ron Davis on the Southern Charm about four years ago.”
Connor McLeod serves alongside Bell as first mate on the Southern Charm. Bell holds McLeod and his work in nothing short of the highest regard.
“He’s a tremendous help, a great fisherman and has been doing it a long time,” says Bell. “We also have a couple of his buddies, Chase Richardson and Zack Redmond. They’re both great fishermen. They help the team tremendously. They understand what everyone else is doing. They don’t have to tell each other what to do. They jive on the back deck, and the whole thing runs like a well-oiled machine.”
The 1,800 points tallied by Bell and his team over the 2022 fishing season were accumulated over six tournaments, which included two first-place wins. These were in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and the Mobile Big Game Labor Day Tournament in September.
“It was a great tournament,” says Bell, as he reflects on the Cajun Canyons tournament in Louisiana, though the first couple days of the tournament were less-than-stellar. “We went to Green Canyon and started fishing along the north side of the canyon. The first day was really slow for us. I don’t think we had a bite, or ever really marked a fish.”
At first, the second day of the tournament only served to amplify frustrations for Bell and his team. Though they were able to briefly raise a fish, however, the marlin pulled the hook.
“That was heartbreak for us, but we just kept on after it,” he says. “We made another jog, maybe 20 miles southwest of there, marked a fish, fed it a bait, and caught that one. Five minutes later, marked another, and then raised a pair and caught one of them. It was just ‘bang-bang-bang.’ We caught three right there!”
Despite the surprise success of the second day, Bell knew his team needed to pull up at least one last marlin on the tournament’s third fishing day to secure a win.
“We got maybe a 6:30 or 7:00 bite that morning,” says Bell. “Once we caught that fish, we knew we were sitting good. We made a jog a little closer to the house, raised another fish and caught it. By the end of the tournament, we were sitting with five.”
Bell and his team managed the same number of fish at the Mobile Big Game Labor Day Tournament in Alabama three months later, securing their second of two first-place wins of the season.
“On Day 1, we went out about 150 miles to a place called Thunderhawk and ended up catching two right off the bat,” he says. “We had three hours to fish that afternoon and caught two within the first hour. The next morning, we started from the same spot, but it was pretty slow. So at about 10 or 11 o’clock, we made a move north, where we raised a pair and caught both. That set us up with four releases. The next morning, we raised one more and caught it.”
Though resulting in only a second-place position, the most prolific of Bell’s tournaments this year, in terms of the total number of fish marked, was the Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Orange Beach. However, like the Cajun Canyons tournament in June, the Grand Championship started slow.
“We knew going into it, by day 2, that we were way behind, and we were feeling kind of down-and-out,” says Bell. “But we ended up having an incredible day and caught three that afternoon. The next day, we caught two before 7:00 a.m., so we ended up with five blues. Then, we decided to pull out some dredges and do some dink bait fishing to see if we could stack up some more points. We ended up catching two whites and a sail, for a final count of eight billfish altogether.”
2021 Furuno Gulf Coast Division Captain of the Year
Capt. Patrick Ivie
Breathe Easy // 1,500 points
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, 1st Place – 500 pts.
Pensacola International Billfish Tournament, 1st Place – 500 pts.
MBGFC Invitational Labor Day Tournament, Heaviest Marlin – 584.2 lbs. – 500 pts.
“Anybody hates to lose,” says Patrick Ivie, an Alabama native, captain of the Breathe Easy, and winner of the 2021 Captain of the Year, Furuno Gulf Coast Division title.
“I am very competitive,” he emphasizes. “I would not take a job that did not tournament fish.”
After hitting the ground running in 1998, just after graduating high school, Ivie’s drive to succeed, in tandem with a natural skill at the helm, permitted him to rapidly propel his career forward. In just five short years, Ivie had advanced to the rank of captain and purchased his first vessel, a 53-foot, two-year-old Ocean motor yacht.
In 2008, Ivie became a hired captain on the QuickTime, a craft he describes as “less fun” than his other boats. When the opportunity arose, he eagerly exchanged the vessel for his current rig, the Breathe Easy, a 68-foot 2009 Viking. As captain of the Breathe Easy, Ivie has enjoyed a growing trend of success and prestige in his sportfishing career over the past five years, culminating in his recently-awarded Captain of the Year title.
Before it fell into Ivie’s hands, the Breathe Easy was formerly the property of Ivie’s current boss, Matt McDonald, who’s since purchased a newer 2018 Viking yacht. Ivie and McDonald continue to maintain a close relationship and collaborate regularly in various competitive fishing ventures.
“He’s just an absolutely incredible person to work for,” Ivie says emphatically. “I love the guy with all my heart.”
As a captain of the Furuno Gulf Coast Division, Ivie participated in six tournaments over the course of the 2021 fishing season: the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Class, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, the Pensacola International Billfish Tournament and the MBGFC Invitational Labor Day Tournament.
The first three resulted in a series of huge frustrations and major disappointments.
“We felt like we were snake-bit and that we couldn’t get the ball rolling,” Ivie says. “But we finally persevered and got through all the problems and finished strong.”
During the first tournament of the season, the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, Ivie and his team reeled in a 700-pound marlin, only to have it torn to shreds by opportunistic sharks. He
and his team later returned to the same fishing location during the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, only to experience the same thing again with a blue marlin that Ivie believes exceeded 850 pounds—likely the largest marlin he has ever managed to snag. Shark bites present on the carcass, though few and small, were enough to disqualify the catch.
“We were just absolutely devastated, because everybody had done an absolutely phenomenal, incredible job,” he said, adding, “You think anytime you catch an 800 pounder, you’re gonna win the tournament.”
The last major letdown of the season came on the second day of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic in early June. One of the boat’s propellers failed 300 miles out to sea. Having been unsuccessful in restarting the engine—the team spent hours on the phone with Viking, trying to resolve the issue—and having caught only a handful of small fish, Ivie decided to head back to shore early, at around 11:00.
It was at the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic that Ivie’s fortunes at last began to make a turn for the better. He and his team managed to successfully haul in four marlins, winning first place in the tournament and 500 points.
He then went on to bag two blue marlins and a white at the Pensacola International Billfish Tournament in July, winning another first place with 500 points. Two months later, he and his team caught their largest (complete) fish of the season, a 584.2-pound blue marlin, at the prestigious MBGFC Invitational Labor Day Tournament. Though a far cry from what could have been an 850 pounder a few months earlier, it was this fish that propelled Ivie to stardom.
Reflecting on his new title as Captain of the Year 2021, Ivie says, “It’s special to me. It might not mean much to some of the other captains, but it’s absolutely special to me and my team.”
He emphasizes the pivotal role that his supportive and engaging wife has played in contributing to his success in his field.
“I couldn’t do it without a great wife. I’m married with three kids; I’ve been married for 20 years. I couldn’t be where I’m at without her.”
- 2022 Capt. Landon Bell // Southern Charm // 1,800 pts.
- 2021 Capt. Patrick Ivy // Breathe Easy // 1,500 pts.
- 2020 Capt. Jeff Shoults // Mollie // 2,100 pts.
- 2019 Capt. Jason Buck //Done Deal // 2,100 pts.
- 2018 Capt. Jason Buck // Done Deal // 2,150 pts.
- 2017 Capt. Jason Buck //Done Deal // 1,400 pts.
- 2016 Capt. Devin Potts // Sea Mixer // 1,100 pts.
- 2015 Capt. Robbie Doggett // Relentless Pursuit // 1,750 pts.
- 2014 Capt. Jason Buck // Done Deal // 1,950 pts.
- Orange Beach Billfish Classic
- MBGFC Memorial Day Tournament
- Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
- Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic
- Pensacola International Billfish Tournament
- Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf
- Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship
- Houston Big Game Fishing Club’s Lonestar Shootout
- Texas International Fishing Tournament
- Texas Legends Billfish Tournament
- Texas Triple Crown Billfish Series
- New Orleans Invitational Billfish Tournament
- Texas Billfish Classic
- The White Marlin Shootout
- MBGFC Ladies Tournament
- Texas Women Anglers Tournament
- MBGFC Invitational Labor Day Tournament