Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Sets Single Team Payout Record
Miramar Beach, Florida—Sunday night couldn’t come soon enough for Nick Pratt and the crew aboard It Just Takes Time, a 62 Viking based in Orange Beach, Alabama. After weighing a 574-pound blue marlin on Saturday night, the crew had to wait it out to see if any other qualifiers would make it to the scales Sunday. None did. As a result, the team swept the blue marlin division, multiple optional entries and won the 2019 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, earning $596,025. That single team payout is the new ECBC record and one of the largest ever for a Gulf big-game fishing tournament. A total of 80 boats competed in the 17th annual event for more than $1.86 million in cash prizes.
“There are a lot of good boats in this fleet,” Pratt said at the awards ceremony at the Baytowne Marina. Pratt was the angler on the fish and also owns It Just Takes Time. It was the first marlin caught on the new boat and only the second blue he’s landed. “So we were very nervous today. We spent it fishing and actually released a blue and caught a dolphin. But everyone was clock-watching.” Capt. Chris Hood was at the helm during the fight, with mates Boone and Donnie Shear in the cockpit. Chapman Cook and Brandon Myer were the other anglers.
“We’re very fired up. Winning this kind of money is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Pratt added. “But I always believe in bet big to win big. This is the best week, by far, I’ve ever spent fishing and the ECBC is the greatest tournament ever!”
There was plenty of action in the billfish release division. Past ECBC champion Done Deal, with Katie Gonsoulin in the chair and Capt. Jason Buck on the bridge, won Top Release Angler, Top Lady Angler and Second Place Release Boat by letting three blues swim away. With optional entries, the team is taking home $163,939. Done Deal is a 70 Viking based in Houma, Louisiana and a perennial contender on the Gulf blue-water circuit. Capt. Clayt James and his crew aboard Chasin Tail, an 80 Weaver Boat Works, claimed top honors in the Release Division, also with three blues on time, for an impressive $229,145 payout. Southern Charm, a 63 Hatteras run by Capt. Bo Keough, was the third-place release team with two blues credited ($75,980).
Jeff Cultan and Triple Threat (Capt. Chilli Willams) cranked in the largest tuna for the week, a 167.5-pound yellowfin. That catch earned the team a $126,310 payday. Capt. Cricket Crochet, Christa Forrester and the anglers aboard Restless boated the second-largest tuna at 157.2 pounds, worth $47,872. Hunter Ryan, Capt. Bennie Goldman and Reelentless took third-place tuna honors with a 148.2-pounder, good for a $90,497 check.
Local team Mollie, with Capt. Jeff Shoults on the throttles, boated the largest of many dolphin weighed in Sunday. Mollie’s fish, caught by Hugh Flanagan, tipped the scales at 44.8 pounds, paying $25,600. Phen-Syn (Capt. Hall Bohlinger) and Arti Davenport whipped a 40.6 pound dolphin, which won $51,540, while Dennis Pasentine, Capt. Robbie Doggett and the Relentless Pursuit team pulled a 40.5-pound bull off a weed line to earn $127,015 with optional entries.
No monster wahoo came to the scales, but the top three fish still were nice money-makers. Captain/angler Kirk Ogren whipped the biggest at 55.8 pounds for $25,600 aboard Pair-A-Dice. Capt. Dusty Parrish, angler Chris Patroni and the Ultimate Lure crew earned second place honors and $23,550 for a 49.4-pound fish. Sage Mount, Capt. Dylan Gandy and the buddy team fishing on Dream’s Wake IV, a Yellowfin 36-foot center console, landed the third biggest ‘hoo at 42.9 pounds, for a $10,240 consolation prize.
In the unofficial “It Pays to Play” category, Squid Row took home a check for $84,285 for a 24.9-pound wahoo in a perfect example of why entering optional jackpot divisions can be so lucrative.
Jackson Moore, fishing on BuggyWasher, was named the top Junior Angler—Billfish by releasing a blue marlin. Logan “Mule” Reeder earned top Junior Angler—Game Fish honors by whipping three dolphin weighing 86.1 pounds. Reeder was competing on Cotton Patch, another previous ECBC tournament champion.
“The week started out crazy thanks to the weather,” said Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “But it all worked out and another successful ECBC is in the books. Congratulations to the It Just Takes Time team and all the other winners. I’d like to express my gratitude to the entire fleet for participating and our wonderful sponsors for their incredible support. My fantastic staff and I look forward to welcoming everyone back next June for our 18th season of exciting big-game tournament action here at the Emerald Coast.”
Tournament host, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and Presenting Sponsor Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore were joined this year by Tourism Partner Visit South Walton and Tournament Partners Mojo Sportswear and Gulf Coast Yacht Group. Galati Yacht Sales returned as the Founding Sponsor while Sportfish Outfitters came aboard for the first time as the Concierge Provider. Ten Emerald, 14 Platinum, 11 Gold and 32 Silver sponsors rounded out the many businesses and services that make the ECBC possible. Sponsor display booths were located at the Baytowne Marina during the weigh-ins.
by Elliott Stark
The intersection between hunting and fishing runs deep. Both pastimes take place outdoors. Each can provide the excuse for relaxing with friends and getting away from it all. Fishing and hunting are also both pursuits marked by uncertain outcomes. Whether it’s venison or tuna for dinner, both fishing and hunting are about much more than filling the freezer. Beyond these similarities there are also a number of lessons taught by each activity that can crossover to the pursuit of the other.
To better understand the intersection of hunting and fishing, we here profile three men who are skilled practitioners of both big game hunting and big game fishing. Their perspective is valuable whether you enjoy fishing and or hunting – whether you make a career on the water or have been thinking about planning a hunt. More than anything, perhaps, reading about the men who have crafted careers that combine chasing the most powerful of the ocean’s creatures and matching wits with the craftiest of animals in some of the world’s most rugged country provide proof that the world really is what you make of it. Whether it’s a bugling elk or a marlin on the teaser that drives your vacation planning, there just might be something in these perspectives that will make you a better sportsman.
Captain Wade Richardson
With apologies to the rest of my contact list, Captain Wade Richardson is perhaps the most broadly talented person I have ever met. Wade is far from a look-at-me guy and never one to toot his own horn – in fact, he might shoot me for writing this. But were you to create a checklist for the ideal sportsman, it would likely look quite a bit like his resume. Richardson has nearly 20 decades of experience at the helm of sportfishing vessels, holds a degree in diesel mechanics from a technical institute in Wyoming, is a graduate of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, is an accredited paramedic, and is an accomplished pilot (holding fixed wing ratings land and sea and a commercial helicopter rating).
Wade also knows his way around the back country of Idaho and Montana as well as a mule deer. Were that not enough, Wade is married to one of the best wildlife and fishing photographers in the world. If you’re lucky enough to catch a marlin with Jessica Haydahl Richardson on the boat, she could well turn it into a magazine cover.
The centerpiece of Wade’s fishing experience was running a private mothership/gameboat operation in the Pearl Islands for 15 years. The operation consisted of a 94’ mothership and two game boats – the Hooker, the legendary 48’ G&S, and the Picaflor, the second Merritt ever built – a 42’ classic. In addition to a pile of The Billfish Foundation Top Release Captain for Black Marlin and other awards, Richardson compiled a list of fishing stories that is second to none. Shooting a 50” corvina off the swim step of the mothership? Yep. How about the time a 160-pound yellowfin free jumped through the tuna door as his mate was scooping runners off a bait ball? That happened, too. Wade is currently overseeing a ground up refit of the Picaflor at the Merritt yard in Pompano Beach.
These days Wade is involved in a number of business ventures in Montana. A fourth-generation rancher, Wade runs beef cattle and flies the backcountry of Idaho and Montana. He is a regular with Richie Outfitters (www.richieoutfitters.com) in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. Wade also hunts elk and deer at his family’s ranch in the Big Hole of northwestern Montana.
Captain Brad Philipps
Since the days of Ernest Hemingway billfish and dangerous African game have been recognized as the ultimate. Captain Brad Philipps is a master of both. A native of South Africa, Philipps is not only a longtime professional safari guide, but a sportfishing captain whose skill, focus and ability are the stuff of legend. Just how legendary are Captain Brad Philipps’ fishing exploits? He has caught more billfish (north of 35,000) than any captain in history. He captained the first sportfisher driven to Ascension Island (he would return the vessel to Brazil on one engine). He has also fished in many of the world’s most prolific fisheries – Bom Bom, Cape Verde, Nova Scotia, Australia, New Zealand and more.
While Philipps makes annual trips to fish in other destinations, Guatemala is his base of operations. With his wife Cindy, a former Miss Guatemala, Brad owns and operates Guatemalan Billfishing Adventures (www.guatbilladv.com). Fishing out of the 40’ Gamefisherman Decisive, Philipps targets sailfish and marlin on fly and conventional tackle. The numbers he posts are incredible. In his best year, 2016, Philipps released an incredible 3,711 billfish, a record breaker of sorts for sure. His best day produced 91 sailfish releases. Personal bests for single angler releases were 73 sails on conventional tackle and 51 on fly.
Growing up in a ranching family, Philipps has been exposed to wildlife conservation, hunting, and safari all of his life. Holding a dangerous game professional hunting/guiding license since 2002, Philipps has guided and hunted in many African countries – South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Zambia. These days, Brad and Cindy Philipps own and operate Toro River Lodges in the Kruger area of South Africa (www.tororiverlodges.com). From their base of operations, Philipps offers all-inclusive fully guided, completely immersive safari options that allow guests to experience South Africa’s diversity of wildlife and natural wonders.
Toro River Lodges offer a variety of experience and it may well be one of the most beautiful areas in Africa. Located in a non-hunting area, the Lodges place emphasis on photo/viewing safaris and first-hand interaction with the wildlife and its incredible biodiversity. Philipps is able to tailor each safari to his guests’ desires as he has some of the best areas throughout Africa, whether to pursue a purely viewing/photographic or a hunting safari.
Captain Travis Butters
Captain Travis Butters has a nose for fish. A native of Islamorada, Florida Butters grew up chasing the many fisheries available in the middle Keys. As captain of the Que Mas, a 70’ American Custom, Butters won InTheBite’s Captain of the Year Award in 2008 after winning tournaments throughout the Bahamas and Bermuda. From the grander he caught in Bermuda to an extended Pacific campaign throughout Panama and Costa Rica, Butters’ 20-year run on the Que Mas was one not frequently matched. These days he fishes along with Captain Randy Gendersee aboard the Sodium, a 75’ Weaver, throughout the Caribbean.
In addition to an innate ability to seemingly catch fish anywhere, Butters spends each September in Colorado’s Flat Top Mountains of Colorado guiding elk hunts with River’s Bend Outfitters (www.riversbendoutfitting.com). His specialty is calling in bull elk for archery hunters, though he is no stranger to the rifle. The operation consists of nine camps situated amongst private land and in the White River National Forest. Trips are six or seven days, with everything packed in and out on horseback.
Beyond the skill and perception necessary to read conditions in the mountains or on the water, Butters possesses a natural charm and ease in conversation. In addition to being handy with rope, and comfortable with stock, Butters ability to spin a joke or launch into a story make him perfectly suited for leading groups of people into the Colorado backcountry or the waters on the North Drop.
Shared Experience and Perspective
At first glance an article profiling the overlap between hunting and fishing would be a strange story for an offshore fishing magazine. There is, however, a body of directly relatable experience between the two. The skillset and outlook necessary to keep clients safe in a remote area are similar – whether it be a mountain side in the middle of nowhere or in a prolific, remote billfishery far removed from Palm Beach. In each case the responsible party must be self-sufficient, knowledgeable in the behavioral patterns of his quarry, understand the many possible eventualities – being prepared for the good and bad alike.
The other interesting intersection between the two is what comes over the client when success happens. Catching your first blue marlin or sailfish is a bucket lister for most anyone who ever picked up a fishing rod. For those who have grown up hunting – whether it be for deer or dove, the chance to shoot an elk or other big game animal may well be the result of years or decades of planning, hoping, and dreaming. Both creatures – billfish or big game animals – represent much more than some meat in the freezer or a mount on the wall.
Stories of anglers rendered frozen by the appearance of a marlin on the teaser are matched only by the hunters whose buck fever shakes lead them to shoot trees. For many, the adrenaline released in the moment is much more than something caused by only what is happening before them. For even captains with decades of experience, no matter how many dorado or sailfish or marlin you’ve caught, you can always remember a time when seeing one was magical. It is such for clients who turn to hunting or fishing guides to provide access and opportunity to experience the stuff of dreams. With the animal of your dreams in the site or at the end of your line, the pressure of the buildup can be palpable. The emotion and excitement uncontrollable. It is awesome…really full of awe.
The Effects of Adrenaline
“There’s a lot of similarities. You’re always looking at the conditions – the weather, the wind, the moon. It’s a lot like charter fishing. You take people out, you entertain them and you get to know people you would have never met otherwise,” says Captain Travis Butter when speaking of guiding hunters in the mountains of Colorado.
The outfit that Butters works with in Colorado operates nine camps that are accessible only by horseback. The average stay in camp is six or seven days. Hunters can anticipate walking between three to six miles per day – all at 10,000 feet of elevation. Beyond the chance to harvest the animal of a lifetime, the physical setting – the altitude, the sleeping in tents, the forest – produce anticipation and build that results in some great stories.
“Some of the funniest stories are the people who miss. Guys will miss at three or four yards. Some guys won’t shoot because it’s too close,” Butters says, describing the experience of calling in a bull elk during the rut. He’s had hunters draw back to shoot a bull elk, only to have forgotten to first load an arrow in the bow. “I had a guy draw back and shoot. I asked him, ‘Did you hit him?’ He said, ‘Yeah, it was only 20 yards.’ I followed the direction of the arrow where the bull was. The arrow was 20-feet up a tree!”
“I called in a bull and some cows,” Butters begins. He placed his hunter ahead of him and began calling from behind. The idea was to draw the bull elk to the sound of the call, placing the hunter in position for a shot. “The guy is under a tree. All of a sudden, I see elk run all over the place. He said, ‘They almost ran me over!’ He was shaking real bad. Turns out a cow had run right by him and taken the arrow off his bow. We found the arrow 15 feet away, with hair on the broadhead.”
Imagine how many similar scenarios unfold with anglers on big marlin. The ability of a marlin to induce backlashes, tangles, and san cochos is the stuff of dockside lore. The psychological effects of hunting and fishing can be very similar.
Preparation and Self Sufficiency
Captain Wade Richardson is a master of preparation. When asked about the importance of captains being able to work on their boats, he says, “If you can’t fix it, you probably don’t have much business running it.” When it comes to taking care of people and equipment (from boats to aircraft, and even livestock) in remote areas, Richardson’s emphasis lies in preparation. “Inventory of parts is important. It’s good to keep a handle on how everything is feeling – where all of your systems sit and what’s going on. Service intervals are very important too, especially when getting parts into a remote place can be a challenge” Wade says. “As a general rule, it’s good to be prepared for anything. Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. If you think it’s not going to break, it’s probably going to break.”
This approach served Richardson well. The mothership/gameboat operation he directed for 15 years was quite literally in the middle of nowhere. He would provision the boat in Panama City and remain self-sufficient for months at a time. “We never missed a day due to maintenance,” he says. He one time had an engine room fire while running out… but he was back fishing by 10:30 in the morning the same day.
The importance of preparation is also important when it comes to the back country of the American west. “You can never be too prepared. If you are getting ready for a trip, it pays to invest in good equipment – boots and rain gear, particularly,” Wade describes. If all you have is what you bring, it is best to bring what will serve your needs. “A hunting trip into the mountains is a good way to find out how good of shape you are in. It’s also a great way to find out what level of uncomfortable you are comfortable with. You can be wet, cold, or hot or sore from walking – you never really know what might happen.”
Guiding the Experience
When it comes to a combined big game hunting and fishing resume, it is hard to imagine anyone with a more impressive body of experience than Captain Brad Philipps. Beyond simply providing access to some of the sporting world’s most majestic opportunities, Philipps believes that an outfitter’s role is to make the process inclusive for the client. For most people, getting up close and personal with a blue marlin or a cape buffalo is the apex of a life’s passion – they want to feel involved in how it happens.
“One of the big things is communication – making a client mentally prepared for what they’re doing. It’s important to let them know what their job in the process will be and what to expect before it happens. Whether it be for dropping back to a marlin or on safari, physical and mental preparation are equally important,” provides Philipps. “The best guides are inclusive. They make the safari goer/angler included in the decision process from the time he or she books the trip.”
Communication and knowing what to expect is important on the photo safaris at Toro River Lodges as well. “A lot of the photo safaris are on foot. The client must understand what guests can and can’t do in certain situations. You can’t run – and you must trust your guide. This involves teamwork and is built with trust. It is always so special to get on foot in a wild area and learn about Africa.”
“There is a lot of crossover clientele – fishing guests who want to Africa. It’s important that the guide knows the guests and the clients. The guide must always remember that it’s always the client’s trip,” Philipps provides insightfully. “In my early days, I built my career on talking with guys before the trip. What may happen – what to do in certain situations. The ifs and thens. If the lions come from this direction… If there is an elephant over there… If the marlin does this…”
“Mental strength is one of the most important considerations. The more extreme and wild the adventure, the more it may test your mental state and experience level. It is important to prepare the client for as many eventualities as you can. Pre-talking is very important,” Philipps says. It is easy for a captain or outfitter who hunts or fishes for a living to forget that the experience may be a once in a lifetime type event for the client. A great guide or outfitter will utilize his or her experience and knowledge to provide the client with a roadmap of what might happen and how to interact with it. This is as much about imparting confidence and understanding as it is anything else.
“A guide must have the basics – a good adventure sportsman first, but he must also be able to communicate and be inclusive. This is what separates the good guides from the great ones,” Philipps says. “A lot of young guides guide for themselves. When you progress you realize that the whole thing is about what’s best for the client. The guide, then, acts as a catalyst to provide the experience the client is looking for.”
Captain Ann Johnston is something of a legend on the Texas sportfishing landscape. As Capt. Kerry Fritz puts it, “Everybody knows Ann.” In 1971, Johnston was just the second woman ever to be commissioned captain in the State of Texas. Since that time Ann has run charters out of Freeport, Texas and fished the Texas tournament scene for more than four decades. She fished Poco Bueno every year from 1972 to 2017 – an incredible streak of some 45 years.
While her dedication and love for fishing speak for themselves, were you to have guessed, she would have been one of the least likely people around to become a renowned saltwater captain. Growing up in the Texas panhandle outside of Amarillo, Johnston was raised driving wheat trucks and combines. “The first time I came to Houston it was with a friend who had breast cancer. She went to MD Anderson Medical Center. My husband and his friend decided they wanted to go fishing in the Gulf, so I came along. I grew up catching catfish in Lake Texoma,” Johnston recalls.
The experience made a lasting impact and soon Ann and her husband, Doug, moved to the Gulf Coast with their boat in tow. “The boat was 32’ long. I tell everybody that I fell in love with the boat and then I fell in love with him. On January 4th, we’ll be married 50 years,” Johnston relates. Upon moving to the Gulf coast, both Ann and her husband obtained their captain’s licenses. “Admiral Welty commissioned me. He must have been 90 years old at the time. I was sure he would faint and fall on me before we were through,” Johnston says with a laugh.
As a charter boat on the upper coast of Texas, much of Jonhston’s business was directed toward red snapper and king fish, with species like cobia (ling if you speak Texan), grouper and dolphinfish mixed in. In most years, she’d run three or four marlin trips. “We commercial snapper fished for a long time. We sold our permits about 15 years ago,” Johnston recalls. “When we started out there were no electronics or GPS like there are now – just the old Lowrance units you had to stick your head into. Boats used to follow us around because they thought we had the snappers numbers… and we did. We got our first snapper numbers from the shrimpers. We’d bring them out food and things and they’d tell us where the snags were.”
In describing her career, Captain Ann Johnston expresses the characteristic humility known to folks from west Texas. While she might not say it, her career leaves a legacy that influenced many on the Texas coast. Captain Kerry Fritz runs the Sea Dog, a 60-foot Hatteras, out of Galveston. He grew up in Freeport and has known Johnston for years. “Did she tell you about the time she was pulled over by a wahoo? She was fighting a big wahoo and the gaff man missed it and she was pulled over. She went down about 100-feet before she got out of the rod harness.”
“There are not too many lady captains as salty as her. Through the years, she’d run five or six days per week. One year at Poco, she had what could have been the winning marlin sharked at the boat. They brought in just the head,” Fritz says. Another year, Johnston finished fourth at Poco Bueno, weighing a whole fish on that occasion. More than just a great captain, Johnston is known for her generosity. “She’d help anybody… She has shown a lot of people the ropes.”
Captain Ann’s generosity and caring nature is reflected in her customer base as well. “The oldest customer I have has been fishing with me for 30 years. We have a lot of them who have fished with us for 15 years,” Johnston says. “Being a lady captain was tough at first. I’d have to keep the guests from jumping off the boat because they weren’t used to fishing with a lady captain. But once they fish with me, they stayed with me. I take really good care of my people. I can usually tell who’s going to get sick and who won’t when they get on the boat. If someone looks like they will get sick, I’ll bring them up on the bridge to sit with me. If someone does get sick, I’ll take them down and wash their face with cold water and let them sleep in the master bedroom. We also help our customers with their fishing technique.”
While any captain who spends more than four decades on the water has seen a prank or two, Johnston’s relationship to dock pranks is unique. “For the first few years, they were always pranking me! We’ve always had to park in the shed, so we’d have to raise and lower the outriggers to get in and out. They’d always tell me something was sticking up or a rope was hanging off, just to see if I’d get mad,” Johnston recalls of her early years on the helm. Even now, after boat deliveries to Mexico and fishing more than most will ever do, Johnston still gets a bit of skepticism about her being a lady boat captain. “The number one thing, every day, someone always says, ‘Let’s see how she does putting the boat in the slip.’”
As for a fishing story? When asked about her best day on the water, Captain Ann’s response is telling. “Every day is a good day as far as you get to fish.” This sentiment is one shared by Captain Ann’s family as well. “We are just a family that loves to fish.” In addition to Ann and her husband each holding captain’s licenses, their son and two of their grand daughters also hold their tickets. “My son runs a 110’ yacht between Florida and New York. He doesn’t fish as much as he used to, but he really loves it,” she says.
The latest iteration of Ann’s Dream is a 54-foot Hatteras. Ann ran the previous edition, a 46-foot Hatteras, for 32 years. She has caught her share of fish, but one trip stands out. “One time we had a two-day marlin charter. The guys didn’t show up with any food, so before we left the dock, I had to get groceries,” she recalls. Once offshore, Johnston and crew trolled around one of Texas’ most productive rigs.
“We were circling the buoys around Cerveza and hooked a 219-pound and a 515-pound blue marlin and caught them both in about an hour. The first one (the 219-pounder) was gut hooked so we brought it onboard. The second one, the guy hollered so much that we brought it in, too. I really didn’t want to, but he said he wanted to get it mounted. He sent the head off to Pflueger but he didn’t pay for it. That’s how I got stuck with a marlin!”
The 23rd Annual Orange Beach Billfish Classic (OBBC), kicked off the 2019 Gulf Coast Tournament Season with 48 boats chasing Blue Marlin and more than a $1M in prize money.
Relentless Pursuit, a 95′ Jim Smith, caught the winning fish shortly after the fleet departed Orange Beach on Thursday, May 16th. “We didn’t have a chance to do any pre-fishing before the tournament,” said Captain Robbie Doggett. “But we hadn’t been on the troll all that long when we got the bite we needed. What a way to start the season!”
Angler Dennis Pasentine, Jr. brought the fish to the boat in less than two hours and the crew started heading for Orange Beach to weigh their fish early the next morning. The team celebrated both the 116″ fish that weighed 658.2 pounds and team owner Dennis Pasentine’s birthday before a nice early morning crowd at The Wharf. The Blue Marlin would still be atop the leaderboard when the scales closed on Saturday night.
No other fish were weighed on Friday, but Saturday night saw two more Blue Marlin come to scales. Double J, a 42′ Freeman, saw their fish measure 107″ and 399.4 pounds. Current Alabama State Record holder for Blue Marlin, Chris Ferrara on the 70′ Viking Reel Fire, claimed third place with his 376 pound Blue Marlin which measured 108″.
Mollie the 66′ G & S from Destin, won Catch and Release and will have their name added to the Johnny Johnson Memorial Trophy, by releasing three Blue Marlin. Reel Fire also placed in the Catch and Release category with a second place finish by releasing two Blue Marlin.
Born 2 Run, a 72′ Viking from Pensacola finished in third place in Catch and Release by also releasing two Blue Marlin.
One of the highlights of this year’s tournament was the weighing in of two giant Bluefin Tuna. Hot Rod, a 56′ Viking from Sasser, GA, brought their 107″ fish in early on Saturday night to the delight of the crowd as the scale read 735 pounds. That fish was bumped to second place as the final fish of the night brought huge roars from the fans in attendance and those watching online.
Crawgator, a 61′ Viking from Venice, LA, caught their 110″ Bluefin late on Saturday and just missed setting a new Alabama state record with an 825-pound giant tuna. Tireless, a 44′ Cabo from Orange Beach, finished third with a 172.4-pound Yellowfin Tuna.
CE, a 65′ Hatteras from Point Clear, AL won the Wahoo division with a 58.0-pound fish. Crawgator also placed in the Wahoo division with a second place fish that weighed 45.2 lbs. and Relentless Pursuit also placed in multiple categories with a third-place finish in Wahoo at 40.2 lbs.
It was good to again see big Dolphin coming to the scales as a new tournament year begins. Lucky Dog, a 57 Bayliss from Destin, took first place with a 46.2 lbs. Mahi-Mahi. Second place went to A Team, a 43′ Viking from Galveston, Texas and third place was won by Breathe Reel Deep, a 52 Ocean from Orange Beach. Both fish weighed an identical 36.6 lbs.
The Top Lady Angler was Katie Gonsoulin on Done Deal as she released two Blue Marlin.
Thirty-Six Blue Marlin and three White Marlin were released in the 2019 Orange Beach Billfish Classic.
Official 2019 Orange Beach Billfish Classic Results
1st- 658.2 lbs. Relentless Purist- Angler Dennis Pasentine
2nd- 399.4 lbs. Double J- Angler Greg Gaubert
3rd- 376 lbs. Reel Fire- Angler Nathan Neames
Catch and Release
2nd- Reel Fire
3rd- Born 2 Run
1st- 825.6 lbs. Crawgator- Angler Bill Butler
2nd- 735 lbs. Hot Rod – Angler Stewart Fickel
3rd- 172.4 lbs. Tireless – Angler Gregg Trenor
1st – 58 lbs. CE – Angler Scott Cooper
2nd- 45.2 lbs. Crawgator – Angler Bill Butler
3rd- 40.2 lbs. Relentless Pursuit- Angler Johnny Pasentine
1st- 46.2 lbs. Lucky Dog – Angler Jarrett Johnson
2nd- 36.6 lbs. A Team – Angler Robert Sanderson
3rd- 36.6 lbs. Breathe Reel Deep – JC Jacobs
Top Lady Angler
Katie Gonsoulin on the Done Deal
The kick off to the Furuno Gulf Coast Division— the Orange Beach Billfish Classic— is officially underway. Check out InTheBite.com for updates…
Source: Gulf Coast Triple Crown Enews —
Grander Marine & Invincible Boats Present The 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship
Celebrating its ninth season in 2019, the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, The Most Sought After Championship in Sportfishing will feature a couple of important changes to the series, including new sponsors. Grander Marine and Invincible Boats are coming aboard as the new 2019 Presenting Sponsors. The pairing is a good synergy on several levels.
“I personally like to fish the Triple Crown tournaments and have been part of a team that was in contention previously,” says Grander Marine owner and angler Chris Bazor. “Our company sells new boats, brokerage boats and offers service, so sponsoring the series is a good way to help fellow contestants and promote our business. We’ll be competing aboard a 40 Invincible catamaran this season, so we figured why not? The owner of Invincible Boats is a passionate offshore angler too and the company builds some of the best quality mono-hull and catamarans in the sport-fishing industry, so it was a natural partnership.”
Grander Marine has a showroom and full service facility on Canal Road in Orange Beach, Alabama. Another satellite facility is scheduled to open later this summer. In addition to being the Gulf Coast dealer for Invincible Boats, Grander Marine also carries a full line of premium fishing and pleasure boats as part of its line-up. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship, the final leg of the five-tournament series, is held at The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach.
GCTC Director Scott Burt also commissioned a commemorative trophy that will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina’s Outfitter’s Store. Created by marine metal artist Frank Ledbetter, the perpetual trophy will sit atop a rotating base and will feature all previous Triple Crown Champions. The team trophy, another stunning marlin sculpture crafted by Ledbetter, will be awarded annually to each champion.
InTheBite sends our thoughts and prayers to all of our friends in the path of Hurricane Michael. We’re thinking about the Panhandle and northern Gulf.
Congratulations to Captain Jason Buck & the Done Deal team for winning the 2017 Captain of the Year Gulf Division AND for coming out on top for the Orange Beach Billfish Classic tournament over the weekend! Special thanks to tournament director, Johnny Dorlane, for presenting the award.