Updates from the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

by Capt. Dave Lear

Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion - Posted: Friday, July 12, 2019 1:20 PM

The Wharf; Orange Beach, Alabama:

In another close finish, Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith based in Venice, Louisiana, was named the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion. This season marks the second time the boat has earned top honors, following a 2015 championship run. Relentless Pursuitis owned by Dennis Pastentine, with Capt. Robbie Doggett the boat’s long-time skipper. In addition to bragging rights for another season, the team takes home a custom Frank Ledbetter metal marlin sculpture and $31,625 in cash including optional entry categories.

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship is composed of the top five big-game tournaments in the region. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship is historically the last leg, but with Tropical Storm Barry moving west across the prime offshore waters, the tournament was cancelled for safety reasons. Done Deal, a three-time Triple Crown Champion, was tied with Relentless Pursuit before fishing started. Ties are determined by the largest marlin landed, which gave Relentless Pursuit the winning combination.

“During the Orange Beach Billfish Classic we left the dock at noon and ran four hours to reach 130 miles offshore,” Doggett explained. “Within 45 minutes we were already hooked up by the time other boats got there. The fight lasted an hour and 45 minutes. We slowly eased back in and weighed the fish the next morning.” That winning 658.2-pound blue marlin was caught on a trolled ballyhoo skirted with a pink Islander lure.

“We call it Stinky Pinky once the ballyhoo is added,” Doggett says with a laugh. “We strictly troll to cover more water and have an arsenal of 60 lures in various shades of blue, silver, purple, green and yellow. We run two rods each off the outriggers and two flat lines. We don’t have the patience to live bait, but we’ve been pretty successful with our style of fishing.”

In addition to the OBBC win, Relentless Pursuit won the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic with three blue marlin releases (no billfish were weighed) and earned series bonus participation points. Done Deal also finished with 625 points from second place release awards in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, plus bonus points. Katie Gonsoulin was the angler on Done Deal’s big fish, a 535.5-pound blue, good for a second-place finish in the CCBC. Jason Buck is the boat’s captain and Jon Gonsoulin is the owner.

Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking run by Capt. Scooter Porto and owned by Jeff Landry, was the third-place team in the 2019 GCTC standings with 500 points. The boat weighed the heaviest blue (602.7 pounds, angler Hunter Myers) in the CCBC, along with bonus points. Fleur de Lis is based in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

“This was a total team effort,” Doggett says of the 2019 Championship run. “This season was all about our former team mate, Dale Artigue, who passed away just before the holidays. His spirit was always with us in the cockpit. There are so many talented and hard-working crews fishing the Gulf that it makes competing against guys of this caliber such an incredible experience.”

Marking its ninth season, the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship was presented by Invincible Boats and Grander Marine. The five legs include the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.

For 2019 GCTC Director Scott Burt commissioned a commemorative trophy that will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina’s Outfitter’s Store. Created by marine metal artist Frank Ledbetter, the perpetual trophy will sit atop a rotating base and will feature all previous Triple Crown Champions. Relentless Pursuit will now have to decide where to display its second GCTC Championship blue marlin.

“It was a tough season with all the weather issues, but Capt. Robbie, Dennis and Team Relentless Pursuit once again lived up to the boat’s name and came out on top,” Burt said. “Congratulations to them and well done to all the competing boats. We look forward to another exciting finish as the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020.”

More Weather Woes - Posted: Monday, July 8, 2019 4:06 PM
In an unfortunate turn of events, an unusual trough of low pressure pushing south into the Gulf of Mexico is expected to gain strength and bring heavy rains and high seas to the central offshore waters later in the week. In the interest of safety, the 2019 Blue Marlin Grand Championship was officially cancelled Monday, July 8.

“Due to insurance policies and boats needing to seek safer ports, we had no choice but to cancel,” said Tournament Director Scott Burt. “There’s just too much going on the rest of the summer to re-schedule, so we’ll re-group and come back bigger and better than ever next year.”

The popular Grand Championship was expected to be another sellout at The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama. The tournament is the fifth and final leg of the 2019 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, presented by Invincible Boats and Grander Marine.

Points are still being confirmed to determine the final standings. The 2019 Triple Crown Champion will be announced Tuesday evening, July 9, at The Wharf Marina.

The 2020 Blue Marlin Grand Championship will be held July 15-19. To learn more or to pre-register for The Greatest Show in Sportfishing, please visit: www.bluemarlingrandchampionship.com

Timely Win - Posted: Monday, June 24, 2019 3:56 PM
By Capt. Dave Lear

Weather was again a factor, but big seas offshore Thursday merely pushed the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic back a day in the schedule. Quality fish were boated by the 80-team fleet, although only one marlin made it to the scales. Owner/angler Nick Pratt, Capt. Chris Hood and the rest of the team on It Just Takes Time recorded a 574-pound blue marlin Saturday night at the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin.

With no other entries, that catch would sweep the marlin division and give the team a resounding championship and lucrative victory. With team prizes and optional entries, Pratt & Company are splitting $596,025, which is among the top single team payouts ever for a Gulf of Mexico big-game event. The 62 Viking was recently purchased by Pratt and the ECBC marlin marked the first aboard the boat. It was also only the second marlin the Theodore, Alabama, contractor has ever boated. Mates Boone and Donnie Shear and anglers Chapman Cook and Brandon Myer comprised the rest of the team.

Capt. James Clayt led his crew on Chasin Tail, an 80 Weaver Boat Works, to the Top Release team honors. Their three blue marlin released on time earned an impressive $229,145 payout. Multiple GCTC Champion Done Deal, with Katie Gonsoulin in the chair and Capt. Jason Buck on the bridge, won Top Release Angler, Top Lady Angler and Second Place Release Boat by letting three blues swim away. With optional entries, the team is taking home $163,939. Done Deal is a 70 Viking based in Houma, Louisiana.

Owner Ron Davis, Capt. Bo Keough and the family/friends group fishing on Southern Charm claimed the Third Place Release Team honors. The 63 Hatteras scored two blue marlin and collected $75,980 in team and optional jackpot entries.

The final stage is now set for the 2109 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, presented by Invincible Boats and Grander Marine. The high-energy Blue Marlin Grand Championship marks the fifth and last leg in the series and with several teams still in strong contention, the final outcome will be determined in Orange Beach at The Wharf Marina, July 9-14. For more information on the BMGC, please visit www.bluemarlingrandchampionship.com

Challenging Leg - Posted: Monday, June 10, 2019 7:39 PM
Weather was a major factor in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, the third leg in the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship. Out of 115 boats originally registered, only 25 decided to fish due to strong winds and big seas brought on by a low pressure system in the Gulf. Fishing hours were from Friday morning through Sunday and despite the challenging conditions some quality fish were boated. No billfish were weighed, however.

Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith and past GCTC Champion, cemented its lead in the standings with the first-place tournament award for catch and release. Capt. Robert Doggett and his Venice, Louisiana team scored 1,800 points for billfish releases. The team also won optional money in the tuna and dolphin divisions, for a total payout of $116,675 for the week.

Easy Rider II, a 61 Buddy Davis based in Galveston, took the second place catch and release award with 1,200 points. Leslie Van Norman is the skipper for the crew.

Pullin Wire, another 61 Davis from Panama City Beach, was the third place release winner, based on time. Capt. Brennan Moore and angler Michelle Griffin, also racked up 1,200 points for successfully letting billfish swim free after capture.

Robert Burroughs and his team aboard Quick Time were the top tuna and third-place wahoo team. Burroughs boated a 142.87-pound yellowfin to claim top honors. Neal Foster and his hardcore crew on Intense, a 39 Contender center console, took the top two prizes in the wahoo division. Their biggest fish weighed 89.83 pounds. Andre Feucht, fishing on Split Decision, a 37 Freeman, wound in the biggest dolphin of the tournament, a bull registering 35.8 pounds.

The beautiful resort of Sandestin is the fourth stop for this year’s Triple Crown. The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic kicks off June 19 in Miramar Beach, Florida. Fingers are crossed the weather will cooperate this time, as more than 100 boats are expected. For more information, please visit: www.fishecbc.com

Hot Canyon Bite - Posted: Sunday, June 2, 2019 6:11 PM
A sellout fleet of 55 boats put on a big-game clinic this past week by releasing 28 blue marlin and four whites during the 2019 Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, held at Venice, Louisiana. Done Deal, a 70 Viking fishing its home waters, came out on top with a combined release tally and one weighed blue. Katie Gonsoulin was in the chair for the 535.5-pound blue. Katie, Capt. Jason Buck, owner Jon Gonsoulin and the rest of the Houma team also released three blues for a total of 2,035.5 points and the top trophy.

Capt. Joey Birbeck and the family team aboard You Never Know!, a 72 F&S based in Sandestin, Florida, came in second place with 2,000 points, all earned from four blue marlin releases. Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking, combined points by boating the largest blue marlin of the event at 602.7 points. The team added 1,000 release points for a total of 1,602.7, good for third place overall. Hunter Myers was the angler on the big blue.

Done Deal> had the second best release score based on time. Double J, a 42 Freeman, was third, also with 1,500 points. Crawgator and Relentless Pursuit finished with 1,500 points, too. A blue marlin successfully released and verified by video earned 500 points apiece.

The big tuna were obviously elsewhere for the week. The top fish weighed 47.6 pounds and was caught by Chasin’ Lulu, a 32 Freeman. Big Boyd, a 54 Hatteras, boated the heaviest wahoo at 40.9 pounds, while Team Supreme, a 76 Viking, scored the biggest dolphin, which tipped the scales at 40.7 pounds.

“We had a heck of a bite,” says Tournament Director Steve Thomas. “The tuna were non-existent, though.”

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship competition shifts east this week as the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic gets underway in Biloxi (June 3-9). With well over 100 boats competing, expect to see some serious catch totals if the current pattern continues. To register for the tournament, visit: wwww.mgcbc.com

Summer Preview? - Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2019 8:09 PM
Kicking off the 2019 Gulf big-game tournament season, four dozen sport-fishers blasted off from The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, Thursday blessed by sunny skies and favorable seas. By the time the diesel smoke cleared and all contestants were back in their slips Saturday night, Relentless Pursuit, a past Triple Crown Champion, was declared the winner. Angler Dennis Pasentine and his crew whipped a 658.2-pound blue marlin to take top honors in this year's Orange Beach Billfish Classic to start the summer off right.

Greg Gaubert and his team mates aboard Double JJ were second in the marlin category with a fish tipping the scales at 399.4 pounds. Nathan Neames, competing aboard Reel Fire, rounded out the top three in the weight division with a 376-pound blue.

Thirty-eight smaller blue marlin were released by the fleet, along with three white marlin. Mollie, another past Triple Crown Champion, was the top release boat. Reel Fire was second and Born 2 Run was third.

The yellowfin tuna were few and far between, but two hefty cousins made it to this year’s weigh station. Bill Butler on Crawgator boated a 825.6-pound bluefin tuna and Stewart Fickel on Hot Rod scaled another at 735 pounds. Top wahoo was 58 pounds (Scott Cooper/CE), and the biggest dolphin came in at 46.2 pounds (Jarrett Johnson/Lucky Dog). Katie Gonsoulin on Done Deal was named the top lady angler for the 2019 event.

“It was a good weekend and everything went smoothly,” says Tournament Director Kate Dorland. “Everyone had a good time despite the scattered grass everywhere, and we raised a good bit of money for The Billfish Foundation. We’re the largest tournament benefactor for TBF in the world.”

The second leg of the prestigious Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, presented by Grander Marine and Invincible Boats, will feature plenty of gumbo and Louisiana hospitality. The Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic kicks off May 28 at the Cypress Cove Marina and Lodge in Venice and wraps up June 1. For more information or to register, please visit cajuncanyonsbillfishclassic.com

2019 GCTC Kicks Off With New Features - Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2019 11:32 AM
Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship
Announces Changes for 2019 Season

May 1, 2019; The Wharf; Orange Beach, Alabama:

Celebrating its ninth season in 2019, the prestigious Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship will feature a couple of important changes to the series, including new sponsors. Grander Marine and Invincible Boats are coming aboard as the new 2019 Presenting Sponsors. The pairing is a good synergy on several levels.

“I personally like to fish the Triple Crown tournaments and have been part of a team that was in contention previously,” says Grander Marine owner and angler Chris Bazor. “Our company sells new boats, brokerage boats and offers service, so sponsoring the series is a good way to help fellow contestants and promote our business. We’ll be competing aboard a 40 Invincible catamaran this season, so we figured why not? The owner of Invincible Boats is a passionate offshore angler too and the company builds some of the best quality mono-hull and catamarans in the sport-fishing industry, so it was a natural partnership.”

Grander Marine has a showroom and full service facility on Canal Road in Orange Beach, Alabama. Another satellite facility is scheduled to open later this summer. In addition to being the Gulf Coast dealer for Invincible Boats, Grander Marine also carries a full line of premium fishing and pleasure boats as part of its line-up. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship, the final leg of the five-tournament series, is held at The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach.

GCTC Director Scott Burt also commissioned a commemorative trophy that will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina’s Outfitter’s Store. Created by marine metal artist Frank Ledbetter, the perpetual trophy will sit atop a rotating base and will feature all previous Triple Crown Champions. The team trophy, another stunning marlin sculpture crafted by Ledbetter, will be awarded annually to each champion.

There will be no rule changes for the 2019 season, Burt announced. Feedback from teams indicated satisfaction with the status quo. There will be an added financial component in the Optional Cash Award category, however. A new $25,000 winner-take-all prize will be awarded to the top team entered in the optional category. Teams wishing to participate in the Optional Division must sign up prior to the first event, the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, May 16-19, at The Wharf Marina. The scoring format for the Triple Crown points will remain the same as 2018.

Following the OBBC, the Triple Crown focus shifts to Venice, Louisiana, May 28 through June 2, for the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic kicks off June 3 through 9 in Biloxi, followed by the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic later in the month (6/19-23) at Sandestin. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship wraps up the Triple Crown competition July 9-14.