Local captains make good showing in Orange Beach Billfish Classic

Tina Harbuck
The crew aboard the Hot Rod show off their 735-pound bluefin tuna caught in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic. The tuna took second place in the big game tournament. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

It wasn’t the fish they were targeting but it certainly was worth keeping.

The crew aboard the Hot Rod with Destin’s Capt. Jason Hallmark at the helm hauled in a 735-pound bluefin tuna to take second place in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic over the weekend at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.

“We were trying to catch a blue marlin and it got in the way,” Hallmark said of the tuna.

Fishing 235 miles out of Orange Beach in Green Canyon off Louisiana near the Atlantis, they hooked up with the bluefin tuna Friday afternoon.

Using a 3- to 4-pound rainbow runner for bait, on a 130 Shimano reel, the bluefin snapped up the bait.

“It skyrocketed about 10 feet in the air like a mackerel will do,” Hallmark said before it took off.

“It took out about 700 to 800 yards of line in less than a minute,” Hallmark said.

With the drag set at 45-pounds, the tuna went down.

“It didn’t stay on top much after that initial run,” he said.

With Stewart Fickel on the rod, it took him about an hour and 15 minutes to get the tuna to the boat.

The tuna was just one of three big bites the crew aboard the Hot Rod, whose home port is Panama City, had during the three-day tournament.

The first bite came earlier in the day on Friday. The crew caught and released about a 200-pound blue marlin.

Up next was the tuna. The last was another blue marlin which they didn’t land.

However, another Destin captain, Capt. Jeff Shoults of the Mollie, did manage to tag and release three blue marlin to take first place in the catch and release division of the tournament.

Another Destin captain and crew they placed in the OBBC were Capt. Cody Gray and the crew on the Lucky Dog.

Local angler Jarrett Johnson pulled in a 46.2-pound dolphin for first place honors.

“We were trying to catch bait when the dolphin just swam up to the boat,” Gray said.

As for other fish they hooked up with, Gray said they pulled the hook on two blue marlin and lost about a 120- to 130-pound yellowfin tuna.

The Orange Beach tournament is the first of five billfish tournaments in the Gulf of Mexico.

Up next is the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, May 28-June 2, in Venice, Louisiana. Next is the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, June 3-9 held out of Biloxi, Mississippi.

On June 19-23, Sandestin will host the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytowne Marina.

The big game tournaments will finish back at Orange Beach with the Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf on Justly 9-14.

Blue Marlin

First - 658.2 pounds - Relentless Pursuit, angler Dennis Pasentine

Second - 399.4 pounds - Double J, angler Greg Gaubert

Third - 376 pounds - Reel Fire, angler Nathan Neames

Catch and Release

First - Mollie

Second - Reel Fire

Third - Born 2 Run


First - 825.6 pounds - Crawgator, angler Bill Butler

Second - 735 pounds - Hot Rod, angler Stewart Fickel

Third - 172.4 pounds - Tireless, angler Gregg Trenor


First  - 58 pounds - CE, angler Scott Cooper

Second - 45.2 pounds - Crawgator, angler Bill Butler

Third - 40.2 pounds - Relentless Pursuit, angler Johnny Pasentine


First - 46.2 pounds - Lucky Dog, angler Jarrett Johnson

Second - 36.6 pounds - A Team, angler Robert Sanderson

Third - 36.6 pounds - Breathe Reel Deep, angler JC Jacobs

Top Lady Angler

Katie Gonsoulin on the Done Deal

OBBC Results