Rise Up raises big blue for big bucks

The crew aboard the Rise Up, a 52-foot Viking, pose for photographs with their 502.2-pound blue marlin, the big winner in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic last weekend.

In their first fishing tournament on the new boat, the crew on the Rise Up brought in a big marlin for the big money last weekend in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic.

Capt. Jason Hallmark along with Rodney Johnson, Wayne Riles, Rusty Skalla and Jeff Fulford had a big time on the Rise Up, a 52-foot Viking, hauling in the largest blue marlin in the billfish classic, which is the first event in the Gulf Coast Triple Crown.

Fulford, of Albany, Ga. reeled in a 108 inch, 502.2-pound blue marlin to take top honors in the blue marlin category.

The fishing team aboard the Rise Up also released a blue marlin to take third place in the catch and release and finished third in the dolphin division with a 28-pounder.

For their efforts on the water, the crew pulled in $136,765 in winnings.

“That’s the most I’ve ever won in a single tournament,” said Capt. Hallmark, who ran the Destin charterboat Vengenacne for many years.

“We got our Happy Gilmore Check,” Hallmark joked about the big cardboard check.

However they didn’t collect without doing some reeling and pulling.

Hallmark said they saw three marlin and caught two.

They released the first one which he estimated to be about 300 pounds, as for the second one, they couldn’t get it to eat.

But marlin No. 3 was the winner.

Fishing about 200 miles offshore, near the oil rigs, captain said they were live baiting blackfin tuna.

“There was a boat there for about eight hours and hadn’t gotten a bite,” he said.

The Rise Up, eased up on the spot and fished for about an hour and was about to leave, when the blue took the bait.

“It was game on ... he was running pretty steady,” said  first mate Rodney Johnson.

Using 100 pound test line, the fight was on.

“We fought him for about two hours,” Hallmark said, noting the marlin put on quite the show jumping six or eight times.

About an hour-and-a-half into the fight, Hallmark said they got the marlin to the wire, but had to let it go.

“It was pulling too hard, we had to let go of the leader,” he said.

At that point, Hallmark said they kept working with the marlin and backing down on it for about a half hour.

“I was able to back up on her … she just rolled over and we stuck her with a gaff,” he said.

The slid the 9-foot fish in the back door of the boat.

“I wasn’t sure it would make 500 pounds,” Hallmark said.

However, when they arrived back at The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach, Ala.  Saturday it tilted the scales at 502.2 pounds, the largest of the three-day tournament.

With the big win, the Rise Up, leads the Triple Crown.

“Right now we’re leading the Triple Crown … that means a lot ot me,” Hallmark said, noting the caliber and experienced captains he’s  up against in these types of  tournaments.

Up next the Rise Up, which docks at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, will fish the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice, LA, then to Biloxi for Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic, then back home for the Emerald Coast Billfish Classic at Baytowne Marina on June 18.