$EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

September 1st, 2019

seadollarscrew $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

The winning crew of $EA DOLLAR$, from left to right, Mark Yamaguchi, Mark Budzise, Brandon Rowan, Brandon Nelson, Adam Lewis, Brad Bull, Gary Hervey, Scott Pantle, Randy King, Kurt Pantle, Matt Taylor, Jack Beal, Ace Nelson and Fred Pyle.

Good karma and tuna tenacity fuel a continued tradition of wins at the Texas Billfish Classic

By Brandon Rowan

High stakes and hot fishing are the name of the game every year at the Texas Billfish Classic and 2019 was no different. I was back on board Jack Beal’s 60’ Bertram, $EA DOLLAR$, to keep the night crew’s tuna win streak going. Last year, we hauled in a 90 lb yellowfin tuna that fell just three pounds short of first place. That was tough. We had our sights set on being No. 1 this time around.

Jasen Gast and the whole TBC team put on a killer kick-off party at Freeport RiverPlace the night before fishing started. The next day, we were locked, loaded and ready to head out far into the wild blue of the Gulf. We had a game plan and wasted no time putting it into action.

There were old and new faces on board for this year’s tourney. Introductions and catching up were in order as we roared out to pelagic possibilities. Plenty of laughs and colorful conversation (you guys know who you are) kept us entertained as we neared our first stop.

juvenile mahi mahi $EA DOLLAR$ Tuna Tradition Endures

You never know what you will find out there. Adam Lewis holds up our “trophy” mahi.

TUNA MACHINE

As the sun set on our fishing destination, the night crew geared up and went to work. We had Capt. Mark Yamaguchi at the wheel, Matt Taylor, Kurt Pantle, his cousin Scott, and myself down in the cockpit. Several of the guys on the day crew helped out early in the night and first mate Adam Lewis made many important gaff shots.

It didn’t take long for us to put a nice yellowfin on the deck and crack open the celebration brews. $EA DOLLAR$’ night crew is a well-oiled machine of jig, pop, chum, drift, catch, gaff, rinse and repeat.

The night stayed lively as schools of fish periodically found their way into our chum line and lights. Multiple hook ups on yellowfin and big bruiser 20-30 lb blackfin tuna kept us going until sunrise.

I was absolutely stoked for Kurt’s cousin, Scott, when he landed his first yellowfin tuna, on topwater no less!

“I saw tuna busting on top, luckily I had the popper rod right next to me. I quickly cast it out and after the second pop it was on!” Scott Pantle said.

I’m real happy he got a warm welcome to Texas

 tuna fishing. Scott is from Florida, where blackfin tuna is the target species, not the bait. I was lucky enough to witness that tuna crush the OTI Wombat Popper he had tied on and oh man, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

Every one of us put a yellow on the deck that night. At sunrise, it was time to tally things up. We had 6 yellowfin in the box, including an odd fish I caught on a Williamson Benthos jig. All other fish came from drifting chunks and Scott’s one on the popper. The flying fish piercing parlor was open for business but the tuna were indifferent to our winged offerings.

After a hot shower and a good meal, I hit the bunk with explicit instructions for the trolling guys to come smack me awake if they got into a good fish. The chance to photograph a big blue marlin jumping for the sky takes priority over sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

MEET JJ: The legend himself, JJ. We rescued this Pelican from the middle of the Gulf during the tournament. We were ready to turn him over to Parks & Wildlife but he jumped ship when we reached land.

FREE BIRD FRIDAY

After a good day’s rest, I was back up with camera in hand, waiting for the afternoon billfish bite. The marlin never materialized, but things stayed interesting nonetheless. We spotted a brown pelican bobbing up and down near the rig as we trolled around. We were a good 170 miles out in the middle of the ocean. This bird was in trouble.

We maneuvered over and tried to lure the pelican in through the tuna door with some bait. The poor guy was so weak, he couldn’t even muster the energy to come on board. Our flying fish net became a bird net and we scooped him up and in. We made a cozy spot in the corner with an old towel and named him “Jack Jr.”

We fed JJ as much fish as he wanted and after about 10 pieces and some water, he was content. We don’t know how he got so far out, but this lucky bird nearly became shark bait. JJ rested happily in the corner and regained his strength as he oversaw our tuna operation.

This night began much the same as the last one with a hot bite early. Line peeled away from my reel on the first drift and after a surprisingly short fight I had a respectable yellowfin tuna on the deck. The wheels of our tuna machine kept turning but that was the last yellow of the trip. But again, things stayed interesting.

JJ quickly regained his vigor and, well, actually became something of a terror. He bit Fred and a few others as they walked past. Them birds have some range with that neck! JJ’s happy little corner was on top of the livewell, so depositing flying fish in the tank became a careful procedure.

They say you don’t bite the hand that feeds you, but we forgive you JJ. A sportfisher is no place for a pelican.

JJ stayed on board for the rest of the night and watched the day crew score a white marlin and wahoo at sunrise. He didn’t care at all for the way we screamed back towards land for the weigh-in. Jack Sr. had Parks and Wildlife on the phone, but once we broke the jetties, JJ spotted some of his pelican brethren and left us behind.

“Fishermen and hunters always get a bad rap but we’re all about conservation,” Jack Beal said.

Matt Taylor, Scott Pantle and Kurt Pantle at the Texas Billfish Classic weigh in.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Good karma paid off. When it was all said and done, we had 7 yellowfin tuna on ice, although no hundred pounders. We weren’t sure what to expect since our 90 lb fish last year was only good enough for second place. We held our breath at the weigh-in as they hung up our first fish. The scales’ flashed “49” and it was high fives and shouts all around! Not only was our win confirmed, but we also took second place with a 47 lb fish.

“If your next paycheck depended on catching a big yellowfin tuna, I would recommend you call the night crew of $EA DOLLAR$!” Matt Taylor said.

$EA DOLLAR$ was presented with a check for a cool $40,500 at the TBC awards dinner later that night. As a bonus, the whole crew walked away with bags of fresh tuna and a story we won’t soon forget.

You never know what you may see when you venture out into the Gulf of Mexico. I can’t help but imagine the sideways and disbelieving glances the other pelicans throw at JJ when he tells his tale. He came away with a strange new story to tell his buddies and so did we.

Fred Pyle and Jack Beal show off the goods.

Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion

July 12th, 2019

Relentless Pursuit Triple Crown hi res 1024x819 Relentless Pursuit Repeats as Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion

Photo courtesy of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

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 Pursuit is 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.”

2019 Texas Billfish Classic to be the best yet

June 29th, 2019

tbc draggin up 2019 Texas Billfish Classic to be the best yet

The TBC continues to live up to its name as the fastest growing billfish tournament in Texas

By Brandon Rowan

In its fourth year of bringing highly competitive billfishing back to Freeport, the Texas Billfish Classic continues to grow, with the 2019 tournament promising to be the largest one yet.

Usually an August tournament, the Texas Billfish Classic changed dates to July 16-20 by popular demand. With the unfortunate cancellation and indefinite hiatus of Poco Bueno, many of the Gulf’s best fishing teams were still ready and hungry to fish those dates.

Those teams who have never fished the TBC are in for a treat. Tournament director Jasen Gast and staff produce one of the most popular and enjoyable tournament formats on the Texas Gulf Coast. Many participants appreciate the start time, which allows boats to leave during the day and avoid dangerous runs at night. The camaraderie of the kick off party, a spirited weigh-in and awards dinner are well known and anticipated events of the tournament.

Fishing was smoking hot last year. Draggin’ Up set a new tournament record by weighing a 514-pound blue marlin. The competition for tuna was tight with Smoker II’s first place fish weighing 93 pounds and $ea Dollar$’s 90-pound tuna nabbing second place.

“But one of the biggest success stories of the TBC is not the fishing, but what we are able to do on land,” Tournament Director Jasen Gast said.

The tournament works closely with three charities; the Billfish Foundation, the Freeport to Port O’Connor Toy Run and the Freedom Alliance, and has donated thousands to charity over the years. The 2018 Awards Banquet ended with Jasen and the Freedom Alliance’s Pepper Ailor presenting a donated all-terrain wheelchair to veteran Jacob De La Garza, who lost his leg in Afghanistan.

Don’t miss one of the year’s best tournaments and come on down to Freeport. The general public is invited and welcome to join the weigh-in.

For information on the Texas Billfish Classic and its schedule of events, visit www.TexasBillfishClassic.com or contact TexasBillfishClassic@yahoo.com

Relentless Pursuit Tops the Field in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

June 11th, 2019

RelentlessPursuit 1024x683 Relentless Pursuit Tops the Field in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

Relentless Pursuit

Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith owned by Dennis Pastentine, won the top honors in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, which concluded Sunday evening at the Point Cadet Marina. Led by Capt. Robert Doggett, anglers Josh Jones and Mike Akue and the team scored 1,800 points in the billfish catch and release division to take the overall tournament award. They also won optional prize money in the tuna and dolphin divisions for an overall payout of $116,675. Relentless Pursuit calls Venice, Louisiana, its home port.

No blue marlin were weighed during the tournament, which convened during inclement weather offshore. The original field included 115 boats, but only 25 opted to compete in the heavy seas. Conditions were compounded by massive amounts of flood water pouring out the Mississippi River and floating debris, which made navigation difficult. Several impressive game fish catches were tallied, nonetheless.

Easy Rider II, a 61 Buddy Davis based in Galveston, Texas and skippered by Capt. Leslie Van Norman, was the second place catch and release team. The 1,200 points accrued, plus optional entries, earned the Texas anglers $28,382 in prize money. Pullin Wire, another 61 Davis from Panama City, Florida, also scored 1,200 points, good for the third place tournament award. Brennen Moore is at the helm of Pullin Wire. Sancha, a 68 Viking from Port Aransas, Texas, and Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking from Grand Isle, Louisiana, won optional money for releasing marlin.

The game fish categories were tightly contested with the leaderboard changing several times during the weigh-ins. Owner/angler Robert Burroughs on Quick Time, a 70 Viking from Orange Beach, Alabama, took home $44,474 with the top tuna, optional dolphin and wahoo. The 142.87-pound yellowfin was the biggest fish weighed. Capt. Shelby Johnson is Quick Time’s skipper.

Deb Hebert, fishing aboard her 57 Gillman, Doctors Orders, took second-place tuna honors with a 137.16 yellowfin. Angler Toby Berthelot whipped the third-largest tuna at 128.49 pounds on Get Reel, a 60 Hatteras. The team also added optional dolphin and tuna for a $35,559 payout.

In the tournament dolphin category, Andre Feucht on Split Decision, a 37 Freeman (Capt. Scott Robichaux), wound in the biggest bull, tipping the scales at 35.8 pounds, worth $10,535. Iona Louise (68 Hatteras), with Tami Hudson in the chair, scored the second heaviest dolphin at 35.72 pounds. Combined with an optional wahoo, owner Joe Hudson, Capt. Clip Hopkins and the team earned $26,816. Angler Abbigal Weidenharf and Team Snafu, a 74 Viking, were third place in the dolphin division with a 35.44-pound entry.

Josh Collier and Intense owner Neal Foster captured the first- and second-place wahoo aboard a 39 Contender center console. Their fish weighed 89.83 and 59.68 pounds, respectively, good for a $53,056 payout.

“It was a very tough week due to circumstances beyond our control,” says Tournament Director Bobby Carter. “I’d like to thank everyone who participated and I’d also like to thank my team for pulling this one off.”

The 2020 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, hosted by Golden Nugget Biloxi, is scheduled for June 1-7, 2020. For more information, please visit: www.mgcbc.com

Photo courtesy of FredSalinas.com

 

QuickTime 1024x683 Relentless Pursuit Tops the Field in the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

QuickTime

Easy Rider II

Intense

Split Decision