Mississippi Gulf Coast Tournament Falls to Cotton Patch’s Big Blue Marlin

New record purse this year for the popular Gulf Coast event

2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Cotton Patch first place blue marlin
Cotton Patch, with owner/captain Johnny Dorland at the helm, had the largest blue marlin of the tournament.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas

It’s one of the highest-energy tournaments on the Gulf Coast, and now there’s a new record for the total payout in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic at over $1.7 million. Celebrating its 16th anniversary this year, the popular event is a highlight of the summer marlin fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico.

This year's 81 participating teams would be treated to some great fishing as well. Topping the list was Johnny Dorland's Cotton Patch team. They bested a 633-pound blue marlin to take home first place in the big-fish division, worth $176,000 in cash.

2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Cotton Patch first place team
Johnny and Travis Dorland and the Cotton Patch team celebrate their victory during the awards presentation.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas

“We started off live-baiting around a few rigs and eventually ended up around the Blind Faith,” Dorland said. “There were several other boats already there and we had a hard time catching bait, so I told the guys to put the lures out: we would troll to another rig about 10 miles away. We made it about a mile and the right rigger lure just got crushed.” The black and purple lure disappeared in a classic blue marlin crash bite, but the team didn’t get a good look at the fish at first. “We saw the bill and the dorsal fin so we knew it was a blue marlin, but we didn’t know how big it was until she came up jumping after we got the leader,” Dorland reported. With Clint Herring on the rod and Dorland’s son Travis doing a masterful job on the leader, the team fought the fish patiently, not wanting to risk pulling the hook with too much pressure. They were rewarded with a clean gaff shot, which resulted in victory.

But the tournament was far from a runaway. The Insetta Boatworks team brought in a blue marlin that would make a serious run up the leaderboard. Their 597.4-pound fish fell just short of the mark set by Dorland and Cotton Patch, but would hold up as the second-largest blue marlin of the tournament. Jeffrey Spangler was the angler on the fish.

2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Insetta Boatworks second place blue marlin
Insetta Boatworks had the second-largest blue marlin, a 597.4-pounder.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas

Carrie Gerber on Cut N Run had the third-place blue marlin, a 506.3-pound fish. But it would be Matt McDonald's Breathe Easy taking home the lion's share of the tournament purse for their fourth-place marlin. The team pocketed $232,875, thanks to their 416.5-pound blue. They were entered in all of the event's optional jackpots, which resulted in their larger payoff.

In the catch and release division, Sea Mixer took home the first-place prize and $159,975. They were the first of four teams to release three blue marlin in the tournament. Sea Mixer was followed by Mono Chongo, Pour Intentions and Born2Run in second, third and fourth places respectively. Peacemaker had the biggest tuna at 179.6 pounds, The Kraken boated the largest wahoo, a 96.6-pound beast, and the top mahimahi, a 41.7-pound fish, was caught by JJ Tabor on Double J.

2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Point Cadet Marina
Eighty-one boats gathered at Point Cadet Marina prior to the start of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Over Ride
Looking good above and below the water, Over Ride is a bright spot at Point Cadet Marina.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Lolita
A beauty at rest, Lolita is always ready to go.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Bleu Sky
Bleu Sky at night. Note the heavy tackle.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Amarula Sun
Amarula Sun lights up the night in Biloxi.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic A Work of Art
One of the largest boats in the tournament, A Work of Art blasts offshore in style.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Sea Mixer
Sea Mixer heads for the deep blue on Day One.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Pour Intentions
Pour Intentions was one of four boats to release three blue marlin in the tournament.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Inlet Magic
Inlet Magic shows off her beautiful Carolina lines as she heads to sea.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Bimini Babe
Bimini Babe departs Point Cadet Marina.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Hatterascal oil rig
Hatterascal trolls past one of the enormous oil and natural gas production rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Sea Mixer top release team
Releasing their three blue marlin before the rest, Sea Mixer was the top catch and release team for the tournament.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Breathe Easy fourth place
Thanks to their entry in the optional jackpots, Breathe Easy won the most money in the tournament despite having the fourth-place blue marlin.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic
The Breathe Easy team won $232,875 with their 416.5-pound blue marlin.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Peacekeeper top tuna
Peace Marvel's Peacekeeper team boated the top tuna, a 179.6-pound yellowfin, to win that category.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas
2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Kraken top wahoo
The Kraken had the biggest wahoo of the tournament at 96.6 pounds.Courtesy MGCBC / Fred Salinas