Each spring, Marlin hosts a virtual bracket-format tournament called Marlin Madness, where fans can vote for their favorite qualifying team from the previous season. This year’s Marlin Madness, sponsored by BlueWater Desalination, went to Riley Rhodes and Walk West, based in Port Aransas, Texas. The team qualified by winning the 2020 Texas Legends Billfish Tournament, part of the Gulf Coast division (other Marlin Madness regions include the East Coast, International and Florida).
“It was a great honor for us to compete in Marlin Madness, and we are very humbled that we were able to pull out a win over so many great competitors,” Rhodes says. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of Viking Yachts, Port Aransas Fisherman’s Wharf, Fox Yacht Sales, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, Texas Legends Billfish Tournament and the Texas Women Anglers Tournament.”
Rhodes has been fishing out of Port Aransas since he was 8 years old, starting with his father, Fred, on the family’s boat in the 1970s and ’80s. After Fred’s death in 1986, Riley fished with friends until buying his own offshore boat, a 26-foot Mako, in 1996. In 2018 the family purchased a 55-foot Viking. His wife, Darlene, and two sons, Walker and Weston, are the usual anglers; the sons, ages 16 and 17, respectively, also contributed to the boat name, Walk West. Capt. Raleigh Morrison and mate Johnny Luby round out the team. “I will be quick to say that none of our success would have been possible without the hard work, passion and perseverance of our crew,” Rhodes says.
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The team enjoyed a number of very memorable catches last season. In April, they landed a 649-pound bluefin tuna after a fight lasting 13 hours. During the Texas Legends tournament in August, they caught a 737-pound blue marlin, which was not just the largest of the event, but it was also the largest blue to be weighed in Port Aransas. Congratulations to the Walk West team, the 2021 Marlin Madness Champions.
This article was originally published in the August/September issue of Marlin.