The Breathe Easy team put together an amazingly consistent season of tournament fishing this year on the highly competitive Gulf of Mexico billfish circuit, capping their year with a Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship. Their win was announced during the final event of the season, the Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama. Matt McDonald, owner of the 68-foot Viking, led the way for his team’s success, while Capt. Patrick Ivie, mate Nick Knoepflein and crewmembers Shane Toole and Ryan Fields comprised the core of the championship team.
Breathe Easy started their year with a second-place finish in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic with a 574-pound blue marlin. They then headed to the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Louisiana, where they weighed the third-place blue. In Biloxi, they had the fourth-largest marlin, but won the most cash in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic thanks to their entry in the optional jackpots. In the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin, they again placed second, with their 835-pounder just missing first place by less than three pounds. The team also earned Triple Crown bonus points for competing in each of the Championship’s five tournaments as well as for the overall size of their blue marlin.
“This is really a big deal to clinch this here at home,” Breathe Easy owner Matt McDonald said during the awards. “It all started when I hired Patrick. I’ve known him for years, but he took a leap of faith in me coming aboard and it’s humbling to have that kind of dedication. Once he did, I knew the Triple Crown was a possibility. Winning this took a lot of luck and hard work.” The team receives The Championship Trophy, a seven-foot tall, one-of-a-kind masterpiece handcrafted by metal artist Frank Ledbetter, as well as season-long bragging rights as the top team in the Gulf of Mexico for 2016.