New boat owner Cramer Pierce made the most of his opportunity. Pierce saw his first blue marlin ever come up on a pink Marlin Magic lure Friday, hooked the fish and finally landed it after a three-hour battle. Weighing in at 595 pounds, that fish turned out to be the largest recorded in the 2014 Blue Marlin Grand Championship and earned Pierce and the Dirt Pit team Grand Champion honors and $175,875 in prize money. Dirt Pit, a 55 Hatteras, is run by Capt. Travis Holzburn with mates Clay Holzburn and Brian Beason. It was only the second time the Union, Mississippi-based team had fished together.
George Kendrick and Up To It came in second place based on a weighed 442-pound blue marlin and one marlin release. Weighed fish earn two points per pound or a minimum 910 points, whichever is greater, and released marlin score 405 points. With optional cash entries and the second-place tournament prize, owner Tripp Tolbert and his team are taking home a check for $162,925.
Sea Mixer, a 66 Spencer owned by Ronald Davis and run by Capt. Devin Potts, was declared the third-place winner. Chris Davis caught a 368.2-pound blue marlin and Tyler Davis released another one. With optional marlin jackpots, Sea Mixer is taking home $73,450 in prize money. Sea Mixer also won the coveted Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship based on top finishes in all five qualifying events in the series.
Angler Steve Brown and Team Reel Worthless made a valiant run at both Championship titles only to fall just a little short. The team, competing aboard Reel Fuelish, a 60 Sculley, landed a 562.4-pound blue marlin but had no releases for additional points. Reel Worthless owner Johnny Johnson, Capt. Myles Colley and the team settled for fourth place and consolation money totaling $168,350. Chip Steinburg, fishing on Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith owned by Dennis Pastentine, recorded the other blue marlin brought to the scales, a 298.4-pounder.
Reel Fire, the 2013 Grand Champion, was the top release boat this year. Connor Ferrara and William Duke combined for two blue marlin catches to earn owner Chris Ferrara, Capt. Mike Roberto and the team $112,050 in overall winnings. Plumb Crazy, Rebel and Rise Up also earned payouts for released billfish. A total of 15 blue and 10 white marlin were released by the 57-boat fleet during 2.5 days of fishing.
The optional game fish categories were hotly contested throughout Saturday night’s televised weigh-in at the host Wharf Marina and Entertainment Complex. In the tuna division angler Shelby Johnson scored the biggest yellowfin at 133.2 pounds (worth $114,840), while fishing aboard Quick Time. Jane Soloman had the second-heaviest tuna (130.8 pounds, $72.090) on One More, while Justin Cullifer captured third place with a 126.4-pounder, worth $28,890 to the Traders Hill team. Blue Smoker and Buyin Time also cashed in with optional tuna jackpots.
Luanne Bozeman landed the largest wahoo, a 75.4-pounder, on Restitution III, winning $5,850. Mark Leto, on Double J, earned $50,985 for his 47.4 wahoo, and Mitchell Reilly on Wynsong scored $53,325 for a 39.2-pound fish, plus a dolphin optional. Controlled Chaos, Three Chiefs and Get Reel also won cash for their wahoo bets.
The tournament’s top three dolphin were separated by less than one pound. Rick Olsen’s 39-pounder led the pack and earned $47,250 for the Breathe Easy team. Buell Polk on Share-E won $34,875 for a 38.8-pound fish, and Eric Hayles on Mollie took home $22,815 for a 38.4-pound dolphin. Rebel, Get Reel and CE scored in dolphin jackpots as well.
The 2014 Top Lady Angler award went to Brenda Dedrick on Black Tip. Dedrick won for her blue marlin release based on time. Marshall Powell, on Traders Hill, was named the Top Junior Angler.
“It’s been another fantastic week with some really spirited competition among the top boats in the Gulf,” said Tournament Co-Director Scott Burt. “But that’s why it’s called the Blue Marlin Grand Championship. I’d like to thank all 57 teams for entering and our wonderful partners for making it all possible. We look forward to seeing everyone again next July 7-12, 2015, for the Greatest Show in Sportfishing.”