In a classic case of the underdog prevailing, J.J. Tabor and his team aboard Double J, a 37-foot Freeman catamaran, took the Grand Championship title Saturday in Orange Beach, Alabama, after landing a 716.6-pound blue marlin. Double J was 300 miles from The Wharf Marina when the fish was boated. Making the scales deadline with less than 20 minutes to spare after two fuel stops (the pump was broken at the first), the team earned $266,907 for the first-place tournament award and optional cash entries. The 58-boat Championship fleet, with an average length of 57 feet, was competing for $1.4 million in total prize money. Pelagic High Performance Offshore Gear was the presenting sponsor of the fourth annual event.
Larry Wireman, fishing his 64 Viking Caribe, boated the second largest marlin of the week after a five-hour fight. The 437.4-pound fish earned $259,943 for the second-place tournament award and optional entries. Capt. Luke Crenshaw is the skipper of the Orange Beach-based Viking.
Dana Foster and Capt. Myles Colley made Grand Championship history by winning third-place tournament honors with all release points. Foster whipped two blues and one white marlin to earn a payout of $148,025 on his 63 Hatteras GT, Born2Run.
Angler Jean Arceneaux was bumped to fourth place by one point, despite landing a 335.2-pound blue marlin aboard Colby Jean. The 74 Viking is owned by Bryan Arceneaux and run by Capt. Marlin Brown. Colby Jean took home $14,500 as a consolation prize.
In the Grand Championship’s modified release format, teams can also compete for optional cash prizes based on different entry levels in the billfish release, tuna, wahoo and dolphin divisions. As such, Quick Time__’s side bets really paid off. Angler Robert Burroughs and Capt. Patrick Ivie scored big with the second-place dolphin (34.2 pounds), a tuna weighing 142 pounds and a blue marlin release. That effort earned the 56 Ocean a check worth $177,345.
Dr. Geoff Collins and his team aboard Cut N Run, a 64 Tribute, won second-place release honors and $33,750 by releasing two blue marlin based on time. Kaleb Richardson was named the top junior angler after also releasing two blues aboard Whoo Dat, a 58 Jarrett Bay, for a $22,320 payout. Brenda Dedrick was named the top lady angler fishing aboard Black Tip.
Robert Ashler, with Capt. Mark “Sparky” McCann at the helm of Black Tip. a 61 Buddy Davis, brought in the largest tuna of the week. The 162-pounder was worth a hefty $114,300 in prize money. Josh Herren, fishing on Sweet Beaver, scored the second largest tuna, 155.8 pounds, good for $49,950. Justin Cullifer on Traders Hill caught the third-place tuna weighing 145.4 pounds. That fish paid out $29,970.
Gotta Believe angler Jamie Williams landed the largest dolphin at 41.8 pounds, worth $23,625. Sydney Turner, fishing on her family’s boat, You Never Know! came in third with a 34.2-pound dolphin, good for $31,725. Other boats winning optional dolphin money included Game Changer (32.8), Iona Louise (29.6) and Trust Fun (28.2).
Only four wahoo were weighed this year. Edward McMurphy Jr., landed the heaviest fish at 43.4 pounds on Blind Hog for a $16,200 bonus. Newly-minted Gulf Legends angler Leon Edwards, fishing aboard his Lucky 2, found a pair of cooperative fish weighing 39 and 28.2 pounds, for a $16,200 check, while Kenny Woodard on Southern Miss boated a 25.4-pound wahoo that paid $33,750 in optional money.
Twenty blue marlin were caught during the 2.5 days of fishing, with 17 released. Another 14 white marlin were let go, along with one sailfish. In the game fish categories 41 dolphin were weighed, plus 24 tuna and the four wahoo. The weighed marlin were donated to the local food bank One Meal to help feed the less fortunate.
“We couldn’t have scripted this week any better,” said Tournament Director Scott Burt. “The smallest boat in the tournament caught the biggest blue and barely made it back in time. We had a record crowd of nearly 15,000 watching at the scales and thousands more on live television and on the web. The fishing was good and the weather was perfect. And we raised $24,000 for a great cause—St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Congratulations once again to the D_ouble J_ and thanks to all of our teams and sponsor-partners for supporting this. It really is the Greatest Show in Sportfishing!”
Next year’s Blue Marlin Grand Championship is scheduled for June 12-17, 2016 at The Wharf.