Although they didn’t land a big game fish this past weekend, they proved they had “game” for the season.
Destin’s Capt. Jeff Shoults and the crew aboard the Mollie won the big trophy and bragging rights in the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championships.
“We’ve been in the top 10 the last five years … now we’ve finally won it,” Shoults said.
The GCTC, which started in 2011, consists of five big game fishing tournaments in the Gulf of Mexico starting with the Orange Beach Billfish Classic in May, followed by the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice, Louisiana. Next up in the series is the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic held out of Biloxi, Mississippi, followed by the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin. The series wraps up back in Orange Beach, Alabama, with the Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf.
This year the series only boasted four tournaments, with the Louisiana event canceled due to bad weather.
The winner of the GCTC is determined on a points system, where captains and crews receive points for their catches and catch and releases, as well as for just entering all of the tournaments.
The tournament that put the Mollie over the top was the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic back in early June.
In that Biloxi tournament, Mollie won two divisions. They took second place in the blue marlin division with a 654.2-pounder and first place in the catch and release, with four blues released for a total of $403,005 in prize money.
“Nobody else won two divisions,” Shoults said over the series.
Although there was no money involved in winning the GCTC, Shoults said it’s still big.
“This meant more than winning the money. It meant a lot to our team,” he said, noting there will be other tournaments and chances to win money.
But it’s not every day that a crew wins the Triple Crown.
“This is a season-long deal,” he said, not just a weekend tournament.
Plus they were competing with 120 other boats across the Gulf Coast.
“This is the first time the trophy has come Destin … first time to Florida.”
The trophy is a 7 foot tall, one of a kind masterpiece hand-crafted billfish by metal artist Frank Ledbetter. The trophy itself is valued at $18,000.
“We’ve always been close, but this year was our year,” Shoults said.