Now in its 22nd year, the Orange Beach Billfish Classic has once again seen records for participation and prize money; this year, 53 teams registered to fish in the popular tournament, held in Orange Beach, Alabama. The event also kicks off the season-long Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship.
As he has done numerous times in the past, Capt. Jason Buck put the Done Deal team on the bite early. The 70-foot Viking, owned by Jon Gonsoulin and home-ported in Houma, Louisiana, was the only boat to weigh in on Friday night. They took the lead and never looked back, thanks to angler Katie Gonsolin’s 118.5-inch blue marlin, which weighed 740.6 pounds. “I was hoping that fish would maybe hit 700 pounds,” said Buck. “We knew it was a fat fish, but we are all happily surprised when that number posted.” That is the largest fish caught to date by the 21-year-old lady angler.
Saturday evening saw plenty of activity at the scales. Breathe Easy, a 68-foot Viking owned by Matt McDonald and skippered by Capt. Pat Ivie, moved into second place with a 111.5-inch blue marlin weighing 551.8 pounds landed by angler Rick Olsen. Rusty Skalla’s 61 Garlington, Black Sheep, nailed down third place with a 108-inch, 513.4-pound blue marlin, caught by Skalla.
The team fishing on Sea Mixer, a 66-foot Spencer, added their names to the Johnny Johnson Memorial Trophy as the winners of the event’s catch and release division; they let go three blue marlin for the honor. Share-E, a 72 Viking, also had three blue marlin releases to finish in second place.
In the game fish division, Chasin’ Tail caught the largest tuna at 164.6 pounds, while Geaux Time had the largest mahi at 35.4 pounds. The wahoo division went to the team on Wynsong with an amazing 110.4-pound beast that brought cheers from the gathered spectators. Sherry Polk from Share-E was the top lady angler and the top junior honors went to Jaselyn Berthelot on Get Reel.
For the tournament, there were 25 blue marlin, six white marlin and one sailfish released, with an additional five blue marlin weighed.