Draggin’ Up

January 1st, 2020

dragginupmarlin Draggin Up

It took Draggin’ Up 20 hours to bring in this blue marlin! They placed third with this fish at the 2018 Poco Bueno Tournament.

Family, friends and most importantly, fun on Chris Heule’s tournament winning 74’ Viking

By Brandon Rowan

For Chris Heule, owner of Draggin’ Up, it’s all about being out there with family and friends. Catching fish is just the icing on the cake. Draggin’ Up has hit the ground running in the short couple years they’ve been on the tournament scene. Multiple blue marlin have hit the scales, awards have collected and tournaments have been won. That’s a whole lot of extra icing.

“I bought Draggin’ Up in September of 2016. I had always wanted a sportfish,” Chris Heule said. “I have a big family, with a lot of friends, so I was looking for something that could handle the crowd of people that we run with.”

Chris was born and raised in Seabrook and hasn’t strayed too far since. He now calls Friendswood home but keeps Draggin’ Up at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

“I’ve always enjoyed the water so I wanted to stay near the water,” Chris said.

tbc draggin up Draggin Up

Crew, family and friends celebrate a win at the Texas Billfish Classic.

Family First

Chris and his family fell in love with the room and performance that a Viking Yachts 74, like Draggin’ Up, has to offer.

“My son Sam loves to fish too, so him and the crew he brings make a big impact on the boat,” Chris said. “All of his friends hang out with us.”

Chris and his son, Sam Rasberry, share a mutual passion for fishing and hunting, and get to spend a lot of time together. But it’s not a boys club out there. Chris’ wife Erika and his daughter Kennedy also love boating and fishing. Kennedy recently caught her first sailfish on a trip to Isla Mujeres

“I don’t have to bargain with Erika to go out on the boat, she’s always ready to go fishing!” Chris said.

Owner Chris Heule, center, with Sam Rasberry and Capt. Kevin Deerman.

At the Helm

No ship is complete without a captain and Draggin’ Up has one of the best in the biz. Capt. Kevin Deerman has been fishing most of his life and took his first captain job in 1986. Deerman has some serious notches on his belt. As former captain of the Legacy, he was at the helm when angler Richard B. Richardson, Jr. reeled in the 972.72 lb. Texas state record blue marlin during the 2014 Bastante John Uhr Memorial Billfish Tournament.

“Kevin Deerman:  He is the reason we do what we do,” Chris said of his captain. “He has really pole vaulted us to the marlin and bigger gamefish we are catching now. We wouldn’t be where we are now without our crew and Kevin.”

Before Draggin’ Up, Chris and Kevin were strangers, but closer to each other than they knew.

“We didn’t know each other but it’s crazy how many mutual friends that we had,” Kevin said. “But I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have Chris and his family in my life. They’re great people and they enjoy doing the things that I love. If they weren’t so passionate about fishing we wouldn’t be out there doing what we’re doing.”

Tricks of the Trade

We all know the drill. The pineapple is a must and absolutely no bananas on board. Every boat has their own superstitions and rituals and Draggin’ Up is no exception. Chris, Kevin and Sam lit up with excitement when asked about theirs.

“Oh man, I didn’t before I met Kevin but now I have a whole slew of them,” Chris laughed. “Some of them we can talk about, some are hush hush.”

And I’m good with that. Here at GCM, we’re not about giving away fishing spots or secret tournament rain dances. But Chris and company were gracious enough to let me share a few of them. Dunkaroos are big on Draggin’ Up.

“That’s when you take a bucket full of ice and water and you stick your head in there. When you come up you drink a beer.”  Sam Rasberry said. “Every since we started doing that we seem to get a marlin bite a few minutes later so we keep it going.”

The guys agree that the boat has to be jamming Post Malone and of course, no bananas are allowed on board. Kevin experimented with two pineapples for extra luck but went back to a solo fruit after that didn’t work out. Maybe the fish gods found it greedy.

The guys on Draggin’ Up also insist that Chris keep his comments to a minimum.

“We can’t let Chris make any comments on anything that might happen because then it will happen,” Kevin said.

For example, Chris couldn’t help but talk about how good a hook-up ratio they were having during a trip. But on the next trip out, the boat only went 1 for 5.

“And on another trip, Chris said to me ‘It’s amazing we haven’t seen any sharks in a long time!’” Kevin said.  “So I yell down ‘One shark, coming up!’ It wasn’t more than 30 seconds later that a 500 lb. tiger shark came up chasing the teaser. Of course, it took a bait and we caught it.”

Tournament Success

In their first tournament season, Draggin’ Up came out swinging. In 2017, they clinched a 4th place blue marlin at Poco Bueno, Kanon Lasserre was named top junior angler at the Lone Star Shootout, and they weighed a 3rd place blue marlin at Texas Legends Billfish Tournament. Things got even better in 2018 with a 3rd place blue marlin at Poco Bueno and a 1st place win at the Texas Billfish Classic in Freeport. The boat stays busy and fishes tournaments up and down the Gulf Coast.

“We really like the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic. We look forward to that one every year, but we have so many good ones on our coast,” Chris said.

“The Houston Big Game is another one of our favorite competitions,” Kevin added. “We got top private boat the first and second year we entered.”

In 2018, the boat also collected awards for Top Captain, Kevin Deerman, Top Male Angler, Sam Rasberry, and 2nd place blue marlin, Chris Heule.

Draggin’ Up likes to keep the mood light and the mojo going during tournament time. Rituals and superstitions come into play and also antics, like catching fish out of an inflatable kiddie pool on the cockpit, are not out of the question.

The boat’s second favorite fish to catch is Yellowfin Tuna but they never get tired of seeing the man in the blue suit.

“When a blue marlin hits your bait, it’s completely different than anything else out there,” Kevin said.

Chris agrees.

“You could be having the slowest day, with everyone walking around pouting and moping, and the mojo on the boat is completely down, but when that bait goes off everyone’s attitude completely changes,” Chris said.

Fish From Hell

The Bahamas are a favorite destination for Chris Heule and Draggin’ Up.

The guys from Draggin’ Up have seen some truly wild occurrences in the few years the boat’s been on the water. The boat travels and Chris’ absolute favorite destination is the Bahamas. But the water is not without peril. The boat encountered a tropical wave on a trip to Isla Mujeres one year and the next year they were struck by lightning. But the one story that stands head and shoulders above the rest is the 20 hour blue marlin fight during the 2018 Poco Bueno Tournament.

“We have so many memories from this boat but that one marlin trumps anything we’ve ever done. Fish don’t usually last that long,” Chris said.

The crew did everything they could to stay awake during the fight and Chris never left the fighting chair.

“We tried every trick in the book,” Kevin said. “We made circles on it, tried getting it to come up, or on both sides of the boat and the fish just kept switching on us. It was on the leader most of the time.”

The man on the leader, Andy Hollen, literally collapsed once the fish was landed. It took 20 hours, and a fight reminiscent of The Old Man and the Sea, but the crew was able to capture third place in the tournament with the 575.5 lb marlin.

The majority of billfish are tagged and released on Draggin’ Up.

Many Firsts

Chris entertains a large group of friends and family on Draggin’ Up and the boat boasts several first catches. At least 18 people have caught and released their first blue marlin on board.

“When we go out and fish, we tag and release the majority of billfish,” Chris said. “It’s important to do what’s right and preserve what we do. It’s not always about killing. We are passing on the future of these fish still being able to be caught where we live.”

The amount of billfish released far outnumbers those retained. Kevin can count on two hands the amount of marlin retained over the years, including time before Draggin’ Up.

All in all, Team Draggin’ Up doesn’t have too much to complain about, especially with all of their accomplishments in such a short span of time. They continue to stay the course with family, friends and fun out on the water. Look for Chris Heule, Kevin Deerman, Sam Rasberry, mates Conner Golightly, Seth Brennan and the whole Draggin’ Up extended family, to continue making waves in the 2020 billfish tournament season.

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Sets Single Team Payout Record

June 25th, 2019

ECBCChamps 300x200 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Sets Single Team Payout Record

totals in the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo credits: www.maximpactphotos.com

Sunday night couldn’t come soon enough for Nick Pratt and the crew aboard It Just Takes Time, a 62 Viking based in Orange Beach, Alabama. After weighing a 574-pound blue marlin on Saturday night, the crew had to wait it out to see if any other qualifiers would make it to the scales Sunday. None did. As a result, the team swept the blue marlin division, multiple optional entries and won the 2019 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, earning $596,025. That single team payout is the new ECBC record and one of the largest ever for a Gulf big-game fishing tournament. A total of 80 boats competed in the 17th annual event for more than $1.86 million in cash prizes.

“There are a lot of good boats in this fleet,” Pratt said at the awards ceremony at the Baytowne Marina. Pratt was the angler on the fish and also owns It Just Takes Time. It was the first marlin caught on the new boat and only the second blue he’s landed. “So we were very nervous today. We spent it fishing and actually released a blue and caught a dolphin. But everyone was clock-watching.” Capt. Chris Hood was at the helm during the fight, with mates Boone and Donnie Shear in the cockpit. Chapman Cook and Brandon Myer were the other anglers.

“We’re very fired up. Winning this kind of money is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Pratt added. “But I always believe in bet big to win big. This is the best week, by far, I’ve ever spent fishing and the ECBC is the greatest tournament ever!”

There was plenty of action in the billfish release division. Past ECBC 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 and a perennial contender on the Gulf blue-water circuit. Capt. Clayt James and his crew aboard Chasin Tail, an 80 Weaver Boat Works, claimed top honors in the Release Division, also with three blues on time, for an impressive $229,145 payout. Southern Charm, a 63 Hatteras run by Capt. Bo Keough, was the third-place release team with two blues credited ($75,980).

Jeff Cultan and Triple Threat (Capt. Chilli Willams) cranked in the largest tuna for the week, a 167.5-pound yellowfin. That catch earned the team a $126,310 payday. Capt. Cricket Crochet, Christa Forrester and the anglers aboard Restless boated the second-largest tuna at 157.2 pounds, worth $47,872. Hunter Ryan, Capt. Bennie Goldman and Reelentless took third-place tuna honors with a 148.2-pounder, good for a $90,497 check.

Local team Mollie, with Capt. Jeff Shoults on the throttles, boated the largest of many dolphin weighed in Sunday. Mollie’s fish, caught by Hugh Flanagan, tipped the scales at 44.8 pounds, paying $25,600. Phen-Syn (Capt. Hall Bohlinger) and Arti Davenport whipped a 40.6 pound dolphin, which won $51,540, while Dennis Pasentine, Capt. Robbie Doggett and the Relentless Pursuit team pulled a 40.5-pound bull off a weed line to earn $127,015 with optional entries.

No monster wahoo came to the scales, but the top three fish still were nice money-makers. Captain/angler Kirk Ogren whipped the biggest at 55.8 pounds for $25,600 aboard Pair-A-Dice. Capt. Dusty Parrish, angler Chris Patroni and the Ultimate Lure crew earned second place honors and $23,550 for a 49.4-pound fish. Sage Mount, Capt. Dylan Gandy and the buddy team fishing on Dream’s Wake IV, a Yellowfin 36-foot center console, landed the third biggest ‘hoo at 42.9 pounds, for a $10,240 consolation prize.

ChampagneShower 300x200 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Sets Single Team Payout Record

totals in the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo credits: www.maximpactphotos.com

In the unofficial “It Pays to Play” category, Squid Row took home a check for $84,285 for a 24.9-pound wahoo in a perfect example of why entering optional jackpot divisions can be so lucrative.

Jackson Moore, fishing on BuggyWasher, was named the top Junior Angler—Billfish by releasing a blue marlin. Logan “Mule” Reeder earned top Junior Angler—Game Fish honors by whipping three dolphin weighing 86.1 pounds. Reeder was competing on Cotton Patch, another previous ECBC tournament champion.

“The week started out crazy thanks to the weather,” said Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “But it all worked out and another successful ECBC is in the books. Congratulations to the It Just Takes Time team and all the other winners. I’d like to express my gratitude to the entire fleet for participating and our wonderful sponsors for their incredible support. My fantastic staff and I look forward to welcoming everyone back next June for our 18th season of exciting big-game tournament action here at the Emerald Coast.”

Tournament host, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and Presenting Sponsor Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore were joined this year by Tourism Partner Visit South Walton and Tournament Partners Mojo Sportswear and Gulf Coast Yacht Group. Galati Yacht Sales returned as the Founding Sponsor while Sportfish Outfitters came aboard for the first time as the Concierge Provider. Ten Emerald, 14 Platinum, 11 Gold and 32 Silver sponsors rounded out the many businesses and services that make the ECBC possible. Sponsor display booths were located at the Baytowne Marina during the weigh-ins.

About Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort:

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a major destination for all seasons and all ages and was named the #1 Resort on Florida’s Emerald Coast. The resort invites guests to a world of 2,400 acres and 30 charming neighborhoods featuring 1,300 vacation rentals, condominiums, villas, town homes and the best in hotel accommodations. As a member of Visit South Walton and Visit Florida, the resort features more than seven miles of beaches and pristine bayfront, four championship golf courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, 19 swimming pools, a 123-slip marina, a fitness center and spa, meeting space and The Village of Baytowne Wharf, a charming pedestrian village with events, shopping, dining and nightlife. Follow @Sandestin on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest events and news.

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Poised for New Records

May 1st, 2019

ECBC logo 300x118 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Poised for New Records
ECBCStart 300x169 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Poised for New Records

Photo credit: Capt. Dave Lear

With just over a month until the kick-off of the 17th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, boat registrations for this world-class fishing event are on pace to eclipse previous highs. The final field is expected to top 100 teams and if that does happen, a new $2.5 million dollar-plus benchmark in cash prizes would be established. The ECBC is hosted by the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and presented by Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore, AL. The tournament runs June 19-23, 2019.

“At the current pace of registrations, I’m confident we’ll exceed our 100-boat goal,” says Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “And when we do, we’re likely to exceed last year’s overall record purse of $2 million as well. We have another great group of sponsors to help us celebrate 17 years and lots of activities to make the entire week a memorable one.” The Early Bird deadline for registering for the tournament is May 31.

The 2019 tournament will again make a strong statement for marine conservation. In the Gulf of Mexico the federal minimum length for boating a blue marlin is 99 inches. For ECBC anglers blue marlin must be at least 110 inches long to qualify in the weight division. That minimum is measured from the tip of the fish’s lower jaw to the fork of the tail. This increase in length will ensure the release of marginal marlin and result in only true trophies coming to the scales at Baytowne Marina.

“Raising the minimum length requirement was an easy decision,” Alfonso says. “The ECBC has been committed to conservation since the beginning and this new rule will ensure these magnificent fish are here for future generations. As a result, fewer fish will be sacrificed and those that are boated will truly reflect the caliber and skills of our contestants.” Can’t Deny It, the 2018 ECBC champion, took top honors with a blue marlin that was 118.5 inches and weighed 699.2 pounds.

In addition to the blue marlin weight division, smaller blues, white marlin, sailfish and spearfish that are successfully released earn points in the competitive release division. Releases are verified by video footage. Yellowfin, bigeye and blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin are scored one point per pound. The ECBC attracts multi-million dollar sport-fishing boats from across the Gulf of Mexico as well as the southeastern United States. Fishing begins after Thursday’s noon blast-off from the Destin Pass and concludes Saturday afternoon. Eligible fish are weighed Friday and Saturday evenings. Viewing is free and open to the public.

Even though the weigh-ins are popular crowd-pleasers, the festivities begin long before the boats leave the dock. Hancock Whitney Bank is sponsoring the ECBC Golf Scramble, which is open to participants and sponsors. Tee-time is 9 a.m. at The Links Golf Club on Wednesday, June 19.

Junior anglers get in on the fun on Friday, June 21, with the Kid’s Catch & Release Fishing Tournament. Prizes will be awarded to the winners who catch and release the longest fish from the resort’s many stocked ponds. Participants need to check in at the Baytowne Marina weigh scales by 10 am.

Tournament host, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and Presenting Sponsor Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore are joined this year by Tourism Partner Visit South Walton and Tournament Partners Mojo Sportswear and  Gulf Coast Yacht Group. Galati Yacht Sales returns as the Founding Sponsor while Sportfish Outfitters comes aboard for the first time as the Concierge Provider. Ten Emerald, 14 Platinum, 11 Gold and 32 Silver sponsors round out the many businesses and services that make the ECBC possible. Sponsor display booths will be located at Baytowne Marina.

The 2019 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic runs June 19-23 at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. For registration, dockage, rules and schedule of events, visit www.fishecbc.com. Reservations for golf carts need to be made directly through the Baytowne Marina office. Book now to get the best location and rates for the event weekend. Call 800-320-8115 or book online at sandestin.com. Use GROUP Code FISH19.

About Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a major destination for all seasons and all ages, and was named the #1 Resort on Florida’s Emerald Coast. The resort invites guests to a world of 2,400 acres and 30 charming neighborhoods featuring 1,300 vacation rentals, condominiums, villas, town homes and the best in hotel accommodations. As a member of Visit South Walton and Visit Florida, the resort features more than seven miles of beaches and pristine bay front, four championship golf courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, 19 swimming pools, a 120-slip marina, a fitness center and spa, meeting space and The Village of Baytowne Wharf, a charming pedestrian village with events, shopping, dining and nightlife. People are invited to download Sandestin’s APP for iPhone and Android devices, or become a Facebook Fan or Twitter follower for the latest events and news.

 

The Good Life with John Kolius

July 17th, 2013

HOO The Good Life with John Kolius

The Kolius clan with a sweet trio of Wahoo.

Olympic Silver medalist and former America’s Cup skipper John Kolius and his wife Joanne are living the good life on their 45ft Viking Express in Florida. The following interview has been shortened for our print copy.  For the full interview, please go to www.gulfcoastmariner.com

GCM: Why did you leave Texas?

JK: We can’t really say which came first, deciding to cruise the Bahamas or wanting to fish more. All we know is that we both love the ocean and we both enjoy the feeling of being offshore.

GCM: What type of boat do you own?

JK: We have a 2006 45ft Viking Express Sportfish. The engines are 900 Common Rail Mans. She cruises comfortably at 24 knots. We have three AC units, two refrigerators, two freezers and two live bait wells.

GCM: What kind of fish do you like to fish for?

JK: Really big fish. There is nothing more exciting than a BIG fish behind the boat. The marlins, both blue and white, arrive in the Bahamas sometime in late April and when they do, we have a great time.

GCM: Who does most of the cooking on board?

JK: It’s about even. We have a small outdoor grill that travels with us and I usually do the grilling. Joanne prepares most of the sashimi along with any pan cooking that requires the stove.

GCM: Do you have any special recipes you can share with us?

JK: Sure! We eat fish a lot and we keep our recipes pretty simple. Bacon wrapped Wahoo: Take a loin and slice it open down the middle so that it opens up like a hot dog bun. Inside the loin use a mixture of paste wasabi and cream cheese. Close the loin. Wrap the loin in uncooked bacon. Place on the grill and cook until the bacon is done. Cut into medallions and serve with some rice.

GCM: Do you have any special places you like to go?

JK: We like to go to Hawk’s Nest on Cat Island. It just has a special charm we like. It’s a small hurricane hole with a good marina and the fishing is good.