Three blue marlin weighing more than 400 pounds hit the scales of the 2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama.
However, Chasin’ Tail brought one eclipsing 500 pounds, worth over $460,000.
The team, fishing from an 80-foot Weaver owned by Ryan Engquist of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, caught a 502-pound blue Saturday and topped the 64-team field in the popular Gulf of Mexico tournament. Capt. Clayt James, mates Ruston Rood, Parker Rodrique and the crew won $460,845, a sizable percentage of the $1.55-million purse.
“To me, this is the best tournament in the Gulf,” Engquist says. “It’s like the Super Bowl of big-game fishing. If you’re going to win one, this is it and to say the entire crew is excited is a big understatement.”
The Blue Marlin Grand Championship was the last leg of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, a five-tournament summer series in its seventh year. The team from Mollie, a 66-foot G&S operated by Capt. Jeff Shoults out of Destin, Florida, won the series. The affiliated tournaments are: the Orange Beach Billfish Classic; the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic; the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic; the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic; and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.
Breathe Easy, the 2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion, finished in second place in the Blue Marlin Grand Championship despite not weighing a billfish. Capt. Patrick Ivie, owner Matt McDonald and the team released four blue marlin and weighed a 143.4-pound yellowfin tuna.
Another previous Triple Crown Champion, the team fishing from 70-foot Viking Done Deal, finished second in releases with three blues. Katie Gonsoulin, daughter of boat owner Jon Gonsoulin, was the tournament’s top lady angler.
Three other blues exceeding the 106-inch minimum length requirement were brought to the scales. Bonner Williams and his teammates aboard Rascal, a Hatteras GT63 owned by Harris Morrissette and run by Capt. Nick Milsap, caught a 466.4-pound blue marlin.
Ryan Cooper, 14, caught a 437.6-pound blue for Team CE and released a grand slam (another blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish) in 20 minutes, in addition to boating a 28.2-pound dolphin. He was named top junior angler for the tournament. Capt. George Crenshaw is the skipper of the 65-foot Hatteras.
Owner/angler Michael Hobbs, fishing on Gotta Believe, a 60-foot Miller with Capt. Trey Wise at the helm, caught the last weighed marlin.
The team fishing from Quick Time, a Viking 70 run by Capt. Shelby Johnson, finished third in the release category with 1,202 points. The 64 teams released 28 blues, 17 white marlin and three sailfish, all verified by video judges. Blue marlin scored 501 points each in the hybrid scoring format.
“Another Grand Championship is in the books,” says tournament director Scott Burt. “Some quality fish were brought to the scales and we also showed that releasing blue marlin can earn big payouts too. This tournament is a great showcase for the tremendous fishery and outstanding talent that’s here along the Gulf Coast. Thanks to all our special teams for joining us and to our many generous sponsors, including our host, The Wharf, who make it all happen.”