Marlin - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS - — By Jon Gon­soulin, as told to Capt. Dave Lear

The team’s 600-pound blue is worth a record $1 mil­lion pay­out

Jon Gon­soulin, Capt. Ja­son Buck and the team on Done Deal, a 70-foot Vik­ing based in Houma, Louisiana, have an en­vi­able record on the Gulf of Mex­ico big-game tour­na­ment cir­cuit. They’ve won and placed in nu­mer­ous events and were repeat win­ners of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Cham­pi­onship in 2012 and 2013. They raised the bar yet again with a 600-pound blue mar­lin in the win­ner-take-all Blue Mar­lin World Cup Cham­pi­onship, earn­ing a tour­na­ment-record pay­out of $1 mil­lion for the largest fish in the world­wide event. A to­tal of 144 boats were com­pet­ing in the eight-hour con­test that’s held ev­ery year on the Fourth of July. Gon­soulin shares the story of this amaz­ing catch.

We were pre-fish­ing near the Elf plat­form in 2,500 feet of water, fewer than 25 miles from my duck camp in the Louisiana marsh. There was a lot of bait, good cur­rent and a cobalt-blue color change just north of us, so we made the call to head back there for the tour­na­ment. We started mak­ing bait about 3 a.m. near the rig and quickly loaded up with small black­fin tuna. We couldn’t have or­dered bet­ter con­di­tions ei­ther. It was so calm, you could have set a glass of wine on the counter and never spilled a drop. It was ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful out there. We had the lines in right at the 8:30 lo­cal start time, and an hour later we got the bite.

Capt. Wilks Ham­mock runs a boat in Cabo, but when he’s home, he’s been fish­ing with us for years as a walk-on mate and an­gler. He was the clos­est to the rod on the strike, and since the World Cup fol­lows IGFA rules, he fought the fish. We knew it was a good one right away. The fish stayed on top, just run­ning hard and pulling a lot of line — Ja­son backed down on it quite a bit. Wilks fought it for one hour and 45 min­utes be­fore we fi­nally sank the gaff. When we got it aboard, it taped out at 123 inches with a 62-inch girth. It was skinny but long, so we thought it might be good enough to win.

We re­leased three other blues be­fore head­ing to Orange Beach Ma­rina to weigh the fish. It was 600 pounds on the but­ton. Af­ter we fin­ished with the photos, we all went up to the restau­rant at the ma­rina to wait it out. Boats were still fish­ing in Kona, and I was stressed out. When we learned we’d won the tour­na­ment, we just went crazy. That place is kind of prim and proper, so ev­ery­one was won­der­ing what was go­ing on.

I owe it all to my cap­tain and crew, in­clud­ing our mates, Westy Mar­shall and Scott Sul­li­van. This has brought a lot of well-de­served at­ten­tion to the in­cred­i­ble fish­ery in the Gulf of Mex­ico; I bet there will be a bunch more boats fish­ing the World Cup here next year.

It’s been a mem­o­rable sea­son for us so far. My daugh­ter Katie caught a 502-pound bluefin tuna in May at the Orange Beach Bill­fish Clas­sic af­ter a fourhour fight. We came in sec­ond in re­leases at the Blue Mar­lin Grand Cham­pi­onship, and Katie was named top lady an­gler. But catch­ing that 600-pounder and win­ning the World Cup is the highlight of our year by far.

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