Blue Marlin Grand Championship Goes to Chasin’ Tail

The team’s blue marlin earns the event’s largest payout

Chasin' Tail wins 2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
The crew from Chasin' Tail celebrates after winning the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.Capt. Dave Lear

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.

Chasin' Tail wins 2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
The crew from Chasin' Tail poses with the 502-pound blue marlin it caught to win the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.Capt. Dave Lear

“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.

Breathe Easy finishes second in Blue Marlin Grand Championship
The crew from Breathe Easy finished second in the 2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship.Capt. Dave Lear

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.

Chasin' Tail wins 2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
After reaching the docks, the Chasin' Tail crew members learn they won the tournament and begin their celebration.Capt. Dave Lear

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.”

2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
The fighting chair on Done Deal is waiting for an eager angler to reel in a feisty blue.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
As the tournament is close to beginning, teams are preparing bait at the docks.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
The owner of this lure is hopeful it'll help win some big money.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
Much of the 64-boat fleet sits at the docks on the eve of the tournament.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
As the tournament begins, boats head out from Orange Beach, Alabama, toward the mouth of the blue marlin-rich Gulf of Mexico.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
Everyone back at the docks had a great time while waiting for the four weighed blue marlin to come in.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
Ryan Cooper, 14, was named top junior angler for the tournament. He caught a 437.6-pound blue marlin for Team CE and released a grand slam.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
This is the 437.6-pound blue marlin Ryan Connor, the top junior angler of the tournament, caught for Team CE.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
The crew from Rascal unloads a 466.4-pound blue marlin, one of four blues brought to the scales during the 2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship.Capt. Dave Lear
2017 Blue Marlin Grand Championship
Gotta Believe boated a 422.6-pound blue marlin during the tournament.Capt. Dave Lear