Updates from the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

by Capt. Dave Lear

Treatable Addiction - Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 9:53 AM
By Capt. Dave Lear

Using the step treatment, Reel Addiction capitalized on its second-place finish in last weekend’s Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic to vault into Triple Crown consideration with an impressive win in the 2018 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic. Chase Pate, Capt. Scooter Porto, owners Rocky and Laurie Jones and the rest of the Pensacola Beach-based team took 30 minutes to whip a blue marlin that tipped the scales at a hefty 796.9 pounds. The 56-foot Viking was fishing 170 miles to the west of Biloxi when the catch was made.

Team Supreme, a 76 Viking from Destin run by Capt. Chase Lake, boated the second-largest fish of the event when Alex Krake outlasted a 739.1-pounder after an 11-hour tug of war. Krake and his team had to plane the fish to the surface after it died during the fight.

Edgar McKee and his crew aboard Pearl, a 48 Viking sport-fisher based in Orange Beach, Alabama, captured the third-place fish. It weighed 611.5 pounds. Like Team Supreme, it was also brought in on Friday.

Relentless Pursuit continued its climb up the leaderboard. The New Orleans-based contestant won top Catch & Release honors with 1,800 points. Robbie Doggett is the boat's skipper. Done Deal, a Houma, Louisiana Viking with Capt. Jason Buck at the helm, was the second place release boat. It also earned 1,800 points but came in second based on time. Relentless Pursuit and Done Deal are both past Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champions. Money Shot came in third in the overall release standings with 1,200 points.

Although there was a strong influx of green water from the recent storm, crews reported slick calm conditions, plus plenty of bait and weed lines throughout the 2.5 days of fishing. This is the 22nd year of this popular event, which is held at the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel/Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi. The fleet of 117 teams were competing for more than $2.3 million in prize money.

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, a highly competitive series featuring five top tournaments, heads to Sandestin, Florida for the fourth leg. The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic begins June 20 at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach.

Wynsong Dominates the Canyons - Posted: Sunday, June 3, 2018 10:55 AM
Angler Zoc Tokheim, Capt. Allen Staples and the rest of the Wynsong crew are whistling a happy tune Sunday morning. The Destin-based 66 Viking turned in a dominating performance in the 2018 Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, capturing the top blue marlin and scoring a second-place finish in the release division. The extremely hefty fish tipped the scales at 699.3 pounds but only measured 116.5 inches from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. All participating GCTC events raised the minimum length to 107 inches this year to promote billfish conservation.

“I’ve never seen a fatter fish that was so short,” says CCBC Tournament Director Steve Thomas. “We really had a time getting her offloaded and to the scales.”

Wynsong also released three blue marlin, worth 1,500 points, for its second-place finish.

Tyler Massey, with Capt. Scooter Porto at the helm of Reel Addiction, brought a 545-pound blue to the scales, good for second place in the weight division. The 56 Viking is owned by Rocky Jones and based in Pensacola Beach.

Kevin Courville also boated a blue aboard A Work of Art, a 92 Viking owned by Art Favre and run by Capt. Ron Woodruff. In comparison, this fish measured 116 inches, one-half inch off Wynsong’s mark yet weighed 178 pounds less. The official weight was 521.3 pounds.

Relentless Pursuit and owner Dennis Pasentine, the 2015 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion, took top release honors with three blues based on time. Capt. Robbie Doggett runs the 95-foot Jim Smith based in New Orleans.

Owner/angler John Engquist and his team aboard Chasin’ Tail, an 80-foot Weaver that calls Orange Beach home, was the third place release team. Capt. Clayt James and company released two blues and won on time.

Although they don’t count in the Triple Crown standings, Wynsong also hung the heaviest tuna of the week, a yellowfin weighing 156.4 pounds. Relentless Pursuit was second with a 115-pounder, while Chasin’ Tail put a respectable 94.1-pound tuna on the board.

Hosted by the Cypress Cove Marina and Lodge in Venice, Louisiana, the 2018 Classic finished with 26 blue marlin and three white marlin releases among 46 competing boats. The next leg of the coveted Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship series begins Monday, June 4, in Biloxi with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.

Done Deal Jumps Into Early Lead - Posted: Sunday, May 20, 2018 2:31 PM
Audiologists were puzzled by the loud, collective groan emanating from Orange Beach Saturday night. But the source of the noise was quickly determined as Done Deal grabbed the initial lead in the 2018 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship standings. That groan came from the 52 other boats competing in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the first leg in this highly competitive series. Done Deal, with owner Jon Gonsoulin and Capt. Jason Buck at the helm, are no strangers to Triple Crown glory. The team captured the championship title two years running, first in 2012 and then with a repeat the next year.

The team’s latest campaign is off to an impressive start. Katie Gonsoulin, Jon’s daughter, boated a 740.6-pound blue marlin after a short battle to capture first place in the OBBC. That fish also set a new tournament record. It was caught off a weed line near the Who Dat drilling rig on a live bait. Under the Triple Crown scoring format, fish that break existing tournament records are awarded an extra 51 points.

Angler Rick Olsen on Breathe Easy won second-place honors with his 551.8-pound blue. Breathe Easy, owner Matt McDonald and Capt. Patrick Ivey were the Triple Crown champions in 2016. Rounding out the points category in the weight division was angler Rusty Skalla aboard Black Sheep. Skalla and his team boated a blue weighing 513.4 pounds.

Sea Mixer topped the field in the catch and release division. The boat earned the most points, 1,500, and edged Share E with the same score based on time. Team Supreme took third place for the weekend with 1,000 points. A total of 53 boats competed in this year’s event.

“Conditions were two to three footers the first day, one to twos the second and one foot by the third,” says Tournament Director Johnny Dorland. “Everything worked out great and the fishing was very good. The ladies (Kate Dorland and Kate Ferrara-Dorland) and I are glad this one is in the books.” Founded in 1996, the Orange Beach Billfish Classic kicks off the Gulf big-game tournament season. The event has raised nearly $700,000 for The Billfish Foundation and other marine conservation groups since its inception.

The next stop on the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship is the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice, Louisiana. Festivities kick off May 29 and fishing concludes June 2. That just happens to be home waters for the Houma-based Done Deal. But it’s still early and anything can happen between now and the middle of July in the red-hot—and noisy—Gulf.

Anticipation - Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2018 5:09 PM
Temperatures are rising, rips are forming and flying fish are skimming gracefully above curling waves. It’s tournament time again in the Gulf of Mexico and teams are busy prepping boats, tackle and gear for another season on sport-fishing’s biggest stage. At the moment the slate is clean—every team has a chance to win. But to earn the coveted Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship and take home Frank Ledbetter’s stunning stainless steel marlin trophy, there is much on the line. And five contests to stake a claim, starting with the Orange Beach Billfish Classic on May 16 in Alabama.

“We’ve got 56 boats registered right now and we cap the fleet at 60,” says OBBC co-director Kate Dorland. “The long-range forecast is favorable, so it’s all good. We’re looking forward to kicking off the new season.”

After the OBBC the action shifts west to the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice by the end of May before coming back to Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic in early June. Sandestin and the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is the next stop on the Triple Crown circuit before the competition culminates with the Blue Marlin Grand Championship at The Wharf in Orange Beach in July. There are thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and hundreds of skirted ballyhoo and bridled bonito between now and then. And to make things even more interesting, several new wrinkles have been added to the Triple Crown Championship this season.

In addition to the exclusive marlin trophy, the championship team will earn $12,500 in 2018. Points are accrued for first through third place in the blue marlin weight and release divisions. First place earns 250 points in the weight category and 125 for release. Second place scores 175 points and 100 points respectively, while third place blues are worth 100 and 75 points. In addition, bonus points will be awarded if eligible marlin exceed certain lengths or break an existing tournament record. Teams will also be credited an extra 250 points for entering all five Triple Crown events.

Also new for this year is the Optional Cash Award Jackpots with a 90 percent payout. The levels are $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 and a $10,000 winner take all category. Participation in the optional jackpot entries also earn points. Teams are encouraged to read the entire rules section beforehand. Results and Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship standings will be updated at the conclusion of each tournament.

“The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship Series promotes the unbelievable offshore fishing we have here in the Gulf of Mexico,” says GCTC Director Scott Burt. “Frank Ledbetter’s magnificent masterpiece this year is his finest sculpture to date and for the first time $12,500 will be awarded to the winning team, plus we’ve added optional jackpots for those who like to play the odds. This really has evolved into the most sought-after championship in the sport.”