Mollie wins its first Blue Marlin Classic

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

They’ve done it again.

For the second time this year, Capt. Jeff Shoults and the crew aboard the Mollie have found themselves in the winners circle -- this time with a 660.4-pound blue marlin in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

“Two first places in one year, that’s not bad,” Shoults said as he sat aboard this boat Monday afternoon thinking about the last few days. “Not to mention we won tag and release in the first one and won third place in tag and release in this one ... and we won money with dolphin.

“To win money in three divisions against 80 boats that are top in the gulf ... makes you feel pretty good,” he added.

Last month, the Mollie pulled in a 613.8-pound blue marlin to win the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club’s 43rd annual Memorial Day Tournament held out of Orange Beach.

Last weekend, the Mollie, with angler Wes Long and mates Chance Young, Sawyer Henderson and Josh Goodson, hauled in a 660.4-pound blue marlin to take first place in blue marlin division as well as placed third in the release division, with three blues. The also snagged a dolphin for a total payout of $514,934 in the ECBC.

“This is the first time I ever weighed a billfish at Sandestin,” Shoults said.

Over the years, he has won in dolphin and wahoo divisions, but never billfish.

“I’m pretty much tickled,” he said. “And for things to happen the way they did with Capt. Ron Woodruff and the guys on the Liquid Apple disqualifying themselves, that’s fantastic of them. It shows the sportsmanship and the honesty in our group, which is something everybody needs to know about.”

The crew aboard the Liquid Apple DQ’d themselves because the 680-pound blue marlin they brought in for a courtesy weigh on Saturday had been tail wrapped and had to be hand-lined in instead of reeling it in.

The blue marlin the Mollie came in with was on the line by 8 a.m. Friday and in the boat by 10:30 a.m.

"She stayed about 30 feet down for most of the fight, which makes it easier ... that way I can take the boat to the fish rather than her sounding and going down and you having to pull her up,“ Shoults said. “It really wasn’t that difficult of a fight.”

His deckhand Chance Young had the leader in his hands about a dozen times. However the fish was so big you couldn’t just pull her up. They waited for her to make a mistake.

“She finally raised her head and got right up on the surface and we were already backed up to her ... and gaffed her before she realized she had screwed up,” Shoults said. “You got to be really patient with a fish like that, and take your shot when you get it.”

Goodson and Henderson gaffed the fish.

“She went crazy, tail going every where and splashing water,” Shoults said. “It’s exciting for about five or 10 minutes ... when you really don’t know what’s fishing to happen. So it is a blast.”

Shoults said they also got lucky with the fish biting on the right reel. He explained that when they live bait they put out three lines. This marlin actually took the right bait. She ate on the 130, their biggest reel out on a 10-pound blackfin tuna for bait.

“In other words, we had her on the right tackle with a 400-pound leader. So everything was meant for her to be caught that day. It all worked out perfect,” he said.

The marlin measured 125 inches long. Shoults said usually a marlin that long would weigh close to 800 pounds, but this one was thin. After he talked to a biologist he realized this marlin had already layed her eggs.

“I’ve never caught one over 700 in the Gulf and I actually thought I finally had one,” he said.

Shoults said he was hoping for 704, but she didn’t make it.

“It was a little disappointing, but not really. It turned out fantastic,” he said.

In addition to the big blue, the Mollie crew caught the 29-pound dolphin on a grass patch about an hour out on Thursday in about 300 foot of water.

Later on Thursday afternoon, they released a marlin. First thing Friday they caught and released another marlin at about 7 a.m. before they hooked up with the big fish. About 10 minutes after they boated the huge marlin, they caught another one and released it. Shoults said they had another blue on but it got tangled up and they lost it. They also lost a white marlin.

“We had an opportunity to really be above everybody, but that’s fishing. You can’t catch them all but we sure try,” he said.

How does Shoults and the Mollie keep finding the big ones?

“It’s funny, everybody has their own theory on where to go and they look at all the satellite charts,” Shoults said.

He said he studies up and then looks at the charts and makes his “best educated guess.”

“It’s when luck hits preparation,” he said. “You’ve got to be prepared to win, to catch the fish when he bites... that’s what it really comes down to.”

And the preparation takes many hours.

Shoults said his deckhand Chance Young actually starts in the winter time preparing hook sets and rigging lures. He said there is probably three times as many hours in preparation than actually fishing.

This is Henderson’s first year fishing with Shoults on the deck and they’ve already won two tournaments.

“I told him after this summer he’s ruined marlin fishing for me. Set my standards pretty high,” Henderson said.

"Six hundred pounder on every trip ... yep, good luck with that one,“ Shoults jokingly said.

The crew was actually back in the harbor by noon on Saturday to give everybody a chance to get to Sandestin to see the fish.

“It couldn’t have happened any better,” Shoults said. “I loved every minute of it.”

“When we leave the docks I can kind of say, ’Yeah, we’re going to catch a blue marlin.’ But to say I’m going to catch the biggest blue marlin is a joke. You can’t predict that. You just go and hope that it works out. And the good Lord has blessed us this year beyond belief,” he added.