June 12, 2016; Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
It was a mixed palette of blues, yellows and silver Saturday against the backdrop of a rosy pink sunset. But mainly it was blue and yellow as six more blue marlin were brought to the scales along with a freezer-full of yellowfin tuna. Fishing for the 2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic wrapped up with 42 boats weighing 101 fish during the last two days, logging some very impressive numbers on the final leaderboard.
Carrie Gerber, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, outlasted the biggest marlin of the day and her personal best, a blue weighing 506.3 pounds that was whipped after a fight lasting less than an hour. Gerber was fishing aboard Cut N Run, a 64 Tribute which she co-owns with Capt. Geoff Collins. Cut N Run’s fish was caught near the Nakika Rig on a live bonito.
“Our goal for this season was for me to hang a fish in this specific tournament because we thought this was our best shot and I always love this event,” Gerber explained after the weight was announced. “We’ve accomplished that goal and I’m so happy. We’re a family team that has a lot of fun. It was super special to be able to compete with all these boats.”
Matt McDonald on Breathe Easy literally saved his best for last, as the 68 Viking from Orange Beach, Alabama, was the last boat to weigh in. McDonald’s blue marlin scaled at 416.5 pounds and with the boat entered across the board in all optional jackpots, that fish stands to win a sizable chunk of money at the awards breakfast Sunday morning. Capt. Patrick Ivie is Breathe Easy’s skipper.
“We caught that fish on a blackfin tuna on a Shimano Tiagra 130 near the Q5000 rig,” Ivie says. “We jumped another fish off yesterday that went between 450 to 500 pounds and we had another one on that was the biggest fish of my career. It was maybe 700 or 800 pounds and it pulled the hooks. We were all pretty down after that, so this fish today made up for it. We only had three bites all weekend and all three were keeper blues.”
Four more blue marlin were weighed on Saturday, including Mollie’s 398.2 (Ryan Long), One More’s 384.4 (Colin Mayo), Over Ride’s 377.5 (Marty Griffith) and Hatterascal’s 336.8 (David Rich).
The large crowd of spectators at the Point Cadet Marina saw cart after cart after cart of hefty yellowfin tuna come to the scales Saturday, with eight fish weighing more than 130 pounds. Twelve-year-old Sawyer York, fishing on First Choice, outlasted one that outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds.
“I didn’t know how big it was (178.3 pounds), but he put up a fight and it was hard. It took a long time to land him,” the junior angler says. York’s fish hit the smallest lure in the spread run right down the middle of the wake.
Josh Goodson on You Never Know! whipped another yellowfin that weighed 172.3 pounds. The boat threw a prop and limped back in on one engine, making the 8 p.m. cut-off in time.
Alec Newton on The Kraken, a Conch 33 center console, scored the top wahoo of the tournament, a 96.6-pounder. Neal Foster, fishing aboard his Contender 39 Intense, had the second largest wahoo at 86 pounds, also weighed Saturday evening.
Less than two pounds separated the top dolphin anglers. JJ Tabor on the Double J, a Freeman 37, scored the biggest bull at 41.7 pounds. Jerry Long on Mollie, a 66 G&S, was right behind with a 40.9-pounder, followed by Mike Akui with 39.9 pounds on Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith.
With a record $1.7 million dollars in this year’s prize money, the payouts will be widely distributed among the 81 boats competing in this 20th anniversary event. The final standings, including the tight release division race, will be announced at Sunday’s awards breakfast.