Breathe Easy Wins the 2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

Consistency proves to be their key to success in the Gulf of Mexico

2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
The winners of the 2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship: Breathe Easy.Courtesy Mark Worden / Lightwave Photographs

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.

2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
The team started their season with a second-place finish in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the kickoff of the five-tournament series.Courtesy ParShots.com
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
Their 392.3-pound blue was the third-largest in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic.Courtesy Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
Watch out for gators! The team's angler goes for a swim in Louisiana.Courtesy Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
Breathe Easy landed the fourth-place blue marlin in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic but thanks to their entry in the optional jackpots, they were the top money team in the tournament.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
Marlin fishing in the upper Gulf of Mexico normally revolves around either pulling lures or slow-trolling live baits near the many oil and natural gas rigs like this one.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
The team's 835-pound blue marlin would normally have been a sure winner in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, but unfortunately another team weighed one just 2.4 pounds larger. Still, a six-figure payday for second place wasn't bad.Courtesy ECBC / fishECBC.com
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
Making their appearance for the fourth time in as many tournaments, Breathe Easy accepts their prize money during the ECBC.Courtesy ECBC / fishECBC.com
2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown winners Breathe Easy first place team
The Breathe Easy team with their families and friends during the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship presentation, which took place on the final night of the Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama.Courtesy Mark Worden / Lightwave Photographs