Updates from the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

by Capt. Dave Lear

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.”