June 7, 2014; Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
Patience, a 52 Hatteras based in Orange Beach, Alabama, was aptly named. The boat rocked gently in its slip for a few hours Saturday before the scales officially opened at the 2014 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic at 3 p.m. But curiosity finally won out and the tournament fish crews off-loaded the catch. A few minutes later, emcee Scott Rossman announced the official weight—a blue marlin tipping the scales at 680.1 pounds. Andy Ryan of Memphis, Tennessee, was the angler.
“That fish ate a live hardtail and the fight lasted a little more than an hour,” the soft-spoken angler explained. “It was a tough fight. We were fishing around the Nikita Rig and there was a lot of bait and a lot of fish out there.” Ryan’s catch vaulted the Patience team into second place on the blue marlin leaderboard.
Another admirable trait was also showcased during this 16th annual event. Earlier in the week Reel Worthless, a 64 Viking owned by Johnny Johnson of Brandon, Mississippi, caught fire at the dock and burned beyond fishability. The team was able to enlist another boat, Reel Fuelish from Pensacola, Florida, to fish instead. So it was virtuous when angler Tim Falzone boated his 539-pound blue marlin, good for third place in the category.
“Everybody has been so helpful,” Johnson said. “The Reel Fuelish crew let us fish with them and we had a good time.
The game fish divisions were tightly contested as the leads switched several times as the night wore on. Bryan Replogle of Mexico was the top stick for yellowfin tuna. His fish lit up the scales at 173.3 pounds. Replogle was fishing aboard Blue Smoker, a 53 Hatteras based in nearby Orange Beach, Alabama.
Bennett Dudley captured second place in the tuna division with his 158.5-pound fish landed after a 45 minute fight aboard Rise Up, a 52 Viking home-ported in Destin, Florida. Jason Benton rounded out the tuna slot with his 147.4-pound fish, captured aboard Don’t Blink, a 56-foot Viking based in Tallassee, Alabama.
Wahoo was another constantly changing division. But in the end, Jimmy Reynolds on the Marlin Darlin’ took the first prize. His wahoo weighed 67.5 pounds. Lady angler Taylor Harvey bested her 66.3-pound wahoo aboard Four Reel, while James Calloway took third place honors on Cotton Patch with a 61.3-pound fish.
Blood Sport, a 38 Luhrs, was on the dolphin bite this weekend. Brad Laquer took first place with a 43.3-pounder, while his team mate, Pip Aljazra took second with a 39.9-pound fish. Friday’s top angler, Deb Hebert on Iona Louise, captured third place with a 38.6-pound dolphin after weighing in Saturday.
The 2014 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic concludes Sunday morning with the awards ceremony at the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort Grand Ballroom. More than $1.1 million in cash prizes will be distributed at that time.