Orange Beach, AL – (Capt. Dave Lear) You Never Know! settled the score once and for all at the 2016 Blue Marlin Grand Championship by grabbing the lion’s share of the $1,463,250 purse. After bringing in an 806.8-pound blue marlin to The Wharf Marina and Entertainment Complex early Saturday evening, the team earned the Grand Champion title and a check for $365,175. Josh Goodson was the angler who outlasted the winning fish, with Capt. Joey Birbeck manning the helm. Thomas Turner of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, owns the 72 F&S, based in Miramar, Florida.
“This has been a pretty special season,” Birbeck said at the Sunday awards breakfast, which was sponsored by Spectrum Resorts. “We caught some good fish and won some money. It seemed like we were drinking Bloody Marys every Sunday to celebrate. But this win is an all-time career highlight. I’ve been getting a ton of calls and texts which really means a lot, coming from my peers. They are as happy for us as if they had caught that fish themselves.”
Pour Intentions, 56 Viking based in Destin, Florida, was named the second-place Tournament Champion. Angler Andrew Smoker boated a blue marlin weighing 455.6 pounds and the boat also released two blues to earn 810 points and third place in the release division. Owner Sean Ely and his team took home $191,190 in tournament and optional entry prize money.
Sherry Polk, guided by Capt. Mike Roberto on the new 72 Viking Share-E, earned a $91,110 payout by capturing a 652.8-pound blue. That fish was good for third place and the Top Lady Angler title for Polk, who was cheered on by her husband Buell and a large contingent of fans welcoming her back.
Capt. Jeff Shoults and the Mollie team took the fourth and final spot on the 2016 leaderboard. Angler Ryan Long whipped a 666.4-pound blue after an 8-hour battle through a lightning storm. The 66 G&S is going home to Destin with $145,725 in tournament and optional cash.
JP Arceneaux, competing aboard Hatterascal, a 70 Hatteras run by Capt. Jeff Donahue, set a new tournament record after besting a 182.4-pound yellowfin. That fish was worth $53,550. Laurie Jones (Reel Addiction), Jane Solomon (One More), Jason Forrester (Conundrum), Billy Vanderhorn (Sweet Beaver) and Patrick Haley (Skin Deep) all won optional money for their yellowfin entries.
Angler Doyle Jefcoat, fishing on Southern Miss, a 61 Viking run by Adam Ladnier, boated the top wahoo of the week, a 74.6-pounder. That catch earned the team a check totaling $33,300. Wes Mincin on A Work of Art won some optional wahoo money with his 59-pounder, as did Lawrence Rowland (Cotton Patch), Tyler Henderson (Carib), Sean Curry (Gotta Believe) and Neal Foster (Intense).
James Piteo and Team Amnesia, a 39 Nor-Tech center console, won top honors and $97,911 with a 45.2-pound bull dolphin. Others winning a share of the dolphin optional pot include Brandon Favre Jr. (A Work of Art), Taylor Morissette (France) and Josh Herren (Sweet Beaver).
In the tight Catch & Release division, Conundrum, a 61 Viking based in Orange Beach and owned by Daniel Haeuser, was the top team with three blues and one white released. All three of Capt. Jimmy Crochet’s blues far exceeded the minimum length for qualifying fish, but the team elected to release them instead. Conundrum’sconservation ethic resulted in a $73,675 payout. Lisa Jo, owned by Michael Lovett and run by Logan Lovett, had good karma after winning the 61st tournament entry in the St. Jude Charity Auction. The Lisa Jo team released two blues and a white marlin to take second place. Pour Intentions edged out Done Deal based on time.
A total of 22 blue marlin, 23 white marlin and one sailfish were scored by the video release judges during the 2016 event. Houston Adams, fishing aboard Gulf Rascal run by Capt. Billy Borer, was named the Top Junior Angler for his white marlin release.
“What a fantastic week!” Tournament Director Scott Burt said. “The weather cooperated, we had some great fishing highlighted by You Never Know!’s big blue and a new record tuna. Best of all, we had the best teams in the Gulf showcasing their skills and we raised a significant amount of money for St. Jude to help some courageous kids. I’d like to thank everyone for fishing with us again this year, Pelagic High Performance Offshore Gear and all our wonderful sponsors for making it possible and my championship team for pulling it all off.”