Jeff Shoults named Gulf of Mexico Captain of the Year by sportfishing magazine

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Go ahead and put another feather in that cap, captain. 

Out of 153 captains around the world fishing in 95 “In The Bite”-sanctioned events in 2020, Destin’s Capt. Jeff Shoults of the Mollie has won Captain of the Year for the Gulf of Mexico. 

In The Bite, tagged as the professional's sport fishing magazine, is the one that “most of the fishermen look up to … and pay attention to,” Shoults said. 

Capt. Jeff Shoults, standing just to the left of the marlin, is most proud of winning the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin in 2020. It was his first time to win the tournament.

The coveted Captain of the Year designation is broken down into five divisions: Florida, Hawaii, International, Gulf of Mexico and East Coast. 

Shoults won the Gulf of Mexico division, which stretches from the west coast of Florida all the way to Texas. 

Winners were determined on a points system in which captains earn so many points for how they finish in each tournament, such as 500 points for first place, 300 points for second and 100 for third. 

More:Mollie wins Mobile blue marlin tournament

Shoults and his fishing team of Chance Young, Josh Goodson and Sawyer Henderson managed to accumulate 2,100 points. 

“You have goals that you strive to achieve and this was another one of my goals,” Shoults said. 

In 2017 he won the Gulf Coast Triple Crown, which was based on the same sort of point system, but only consisted of five tournaments from Sandestin to Louisiana. In The Bite takes in all the big game tournaments on the Gulf Coast, Shoults said.  

Destin's Jeff Shoults, captain of the Mollie, gets his weigh-in slips off the boat at the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic in June of 2020. At right is angler Wes Long, who landed the Mollie's winning 660.4-pound blue marlin on the second weigh-in day of the ECBC at Baytowne Marina.

More:July 2017 - Destin captain brings home Triple Crown

The Mollie crew started their accumulation of points with a first-place finish in the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club Memorial Day Tournament held out of Orange Beach. 

“We not only had first place big fish with a 613.8 pounds, but we also had first place tag and release,” Shoults said. 

They also took first place in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin with a 660.4-pound blue marlin as well as third in tag and release. 

Then they took first place tag and release in the MBGFC Invitational Labor Day Tournament. 

Although Shoults is excited about the win, it’s not something he was specifically shooting for. 

“It’s kind of like the Triple Crown … it’s something you want to win, but it’s not something you specifically go after,” he said. 

“If you win tournaments, you’re going to win … but you’ve got to place in a lot of different tournaments. We were very fortunate this year, obviously, to have four first places … which is pretty good,” he said. 

Pictured here  are Capt. Jeff Shoults, right, and two of his  crew, Sawyer Henderson, left, and Chance Young.
[TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG]

The Mollie and crew ended up catching 20 blue marlins from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  

“It was the best ever … most first places by far,” Shoults said. 

How did they do it? 

Mollie Capt. Jeff Shoults of Destin poses with angler Wes Long and their winning 660.4-pound blue marlin on the second weigh-in day of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytown Marina in June of 2020.

“We chose the right places to fish and we were lucky that we capitalized on all of our bites,” he said, giving credit to his crew. 

Shoults said in his second-best year to marlin fish they probably hooked 13 and even in 2017 when he won the Triple Crown they caught about a dozen. 

“This year was an exceptional year,” he said, noting the boat that won the Biloxi tournament caught 10 in one weekend. 

“The blue marlin fishing in the Gulf this year was just extraordinary,” he said.  

Although Shoults will go down as Captain of the Year, he says it takes a team. 

“I appreciate the honor and all that, but we all know that it’s not just me. It’s the whole group,” he said. 

Shoults likened it to football. 

“You can be the quarterback but without the offensive line, receivers and everybody else, you’re not really going to be very good. So, it’s not just a captain's award,” he said. 

Young will also get a plaque for Mate of the Year as well, he added. 

Shoults said he is most proud of winning the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. 

More:Mollie wins its first Blue Marlin Classic

“To get to win the hometown tournament, which I had never done before …  meant a lot to me,” he said.  

Shoults and crew caught the winning ECBC marlin on the first day and was able to bring the fish to Harbor Docks in Destin for family and friends to see. 

“Everybody got to come see the fish before we went to Sandestin … just because of COVID. It worked out well,” he said, noting there wasn’t a big crowd at the scales. 

“It was a big deal for us to win,” he said. 

As for the Captain of the Year, Shoults will receive a plaque to mark the accomplishment. 

“If you win Captain of the Year, you’re going to win a bunch of money. It’s not about money, it’s about prestige,” he said. 

Shoults said they won more than $700,000 this year in prize money. 

“The money is going to come. It’s more about the award,” he said, noting there are only about six or seven guys who have the designation as top captain. 

Capt. Myles Colley of Born 2 Run out of Pensacola, came in second behind Shoults in the Gulf of Mexico division with 1,000 points.