With 42 participating boats, the 19th annual Orange Beach Billfish Classic served as the unofficial kickoff to the hotly-contested tournament season in the Gulf of Mexico for 2017, as well as the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship. Seas were rough and the bite was challenging but by the end of the tournament, 25 blue marlin had been released and two brought to the scales at The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, where a record crowd turned out to watch the action.
The first boat to weigh in was Lyon’s Pride, a 67-foot Viking from Sandestin, Florida. Angler Riley Satterfield released his very first blue marlin on Friday and then became the tournament winner when he landed a fish weighing 431.6 pounds. The team would hang on to first place, resulting in a payday of $123,110 in cash.
One team had Lyon’s Pride looking over their shoulders though: Capt. Devin Potts and Sea Mixer. Angler Christopher Davis scaled a 388.4-pound blue marlin to finish in second place. The Sea Mixer team, fishing aboard their 66-foot Spencer, won $76,380 for their efforts.
Three boats had three verified blue marlin releases, so the outcome was determined by time of release. Rocky Jones’ Reel Addiction released their last fish first so they won the division as well as the honor of having their team name engraved on the Johnny Johnson Memorial Catch and Release Trophy. This is the third time in the past 19 years that Jones has won this award. A Work of Art was second in the release division and Gunnslinger was third.
But it was Katie Gonsoulin on Done Deal who stole the show with her 502.4-pound bluefin tuna. The massive fish won her the top lady angler award along with the cash for the tuna category. Done Deal is a 70-foot Viking captained by Jason Buck and home-ported in Houma, Louisiana.
The Orange Beach Billfish Classic will once again make a significant donation to The Billfish Foundation to further their goals of promoting billfish conservation worldwide.