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Orange Beach boat lands potential record blue marlin

When word got around that Orange Beach boat “Best Trait” was headed to Orange Beach Marina with a huge blue marlin on board, a crowd quickly gathered at the marina to watch the weigh-in.

As the 55-foot Viking sportfishing vessel owned by Scott Crump of Jasper arrived at the marina, the crowd pushed closer to the dock to get a glimpse of the big fish. Chris Vecsey, tackle salesman at Sam’s Tackle and an accomplished angler, looked at the fish and turned to my buddy Jay Gunn, also a captain with both inshore and offshore experience, and asked, “Do you think that fish will go 1,000 pounds?”

Gunn responded, “That fish will blow 1,000 pounds out of the water.”

The Best Trait crew celebrates landing the 1,145.6-pound marlin, a potential Alabama and Gulf record. (Jay Gunn, ADCNR)

Indeed, it did. After a delay to ensure it was weighed on certified scales, the giant blue marlin officially weighed 1,145.6 pounds, a potential Alabama and Gulf of Mexico record. The Best Trait marlin, which was 145 inches long, easily eclipses the Alabama state record of 851.9 pounds caught in 2020 by Ginger Myers. The Gulf record was set in 2002 in Mississippi by Barry Carr at 1,054 pounds.

The marlin must go through the certification process by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division to become an official record.

Scott “Scooter” Anderson, friend of the family, was the angler who reeled in the fish in two hours, but he said it was far from easy.

“It still really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Anderson, a 32-year-old from Houston, Texas, who said he has been fishing basically his whole life. “The trip really wasn’t going our way. We jumped off two fish, probably in the 500-pound class. The bite had slowed down that afternoon, so we kind of reorganized ourselves for the major (feeding) time that afternoon.”

Unfortunately, a pod of dolphins moved into the area around the rig they were fishing, which prompted Capt. Chris Mowad to travel 11 miles away to the Blind Faith rig, Chevron’s deepest rig at 6,500 feet about 160 miles southeast of New Orleans.

“When we got to the rig, Capt. Chris marked a couple of fish in the first 20 minutes we were there, and everything looked right,” Anderson said. “After Chris marked the fish, we deployed a couple of live baits (blackfin tuna). Chris was able to track the bait on the sonar and watched the marlin eat the tuna, and the rest is history.”

Marlin are known for their acrobatic jumps, but the next question was whether a fish that big could actually jump completely out of the water.

“Oh yeah, she came completely out twice,” Anderson said. “The only thing is she was jumping toward the rig. We were afraid she was going to get into the rig.”

Fortunately, Mowad maneuvered the boat to keep the marlin out of the rig, and Anderson settled into the fighting chair for a lengthy battle, which really didn’t play out. An hour into the fight, the marlin died and began to sink.

“I felt it start sinking,” said Anderson, who admits he is obsessed with marlin fishing and has traveled to the Azores, Cape Verde and Australia to pursue the sport. “We had to tighten down the drag and winch it up. I was fighting dead weight. It was definitely tough. I don’t know if that’s unusual for a fish to die that quickly because I’ve never caught one that big. I’ve been all over the place chasing big marlin. It’s my passion. I never thought it would come out of the Gulf of Mexico.”

A combination of Mowad’s boat maneuvers and Anderson’s winching on the Shimano Tiagra 130 reel finally got the behemoth to the surface.

“When it jumped, I was thinking it was 600 or 700 pounds,” Mowad said. “When we finally saw it behind the boat, I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a big fish.’”

Anderson added, “We were shocked when we pulled it up. We had no idea it was that big. We knew she was big but not that big.”

Fortunately, the Best Trait has a tuna door on the transom, but the boat’s crew was still overmatched when trying to the haul the marlin into the boat.

The marlin was so big it took seven people to haul it aboard the Best Trait. Blake Michaleski, ADCNR)

“We had to call another boat for help,” Anderson said. “Chris had a friend by the rig, and a couple of their guys hopped on our boat and helped us pull it in. We had five on the boat, but we needed seven to pull it in.”

Since word got out about the big fish, the Best Trait crew has been inundated with congratulations from all over the world.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Anderson. “But we’re going to keep doing what we usually do, catch blue marlin.”

In fact, the boat left that night to head back out into the Gulf after restocking and refueling.

“We don’t get a lot of weather windows like we have right now,” Anderson said. “We’re taking advantage of it.”

Boat owner Crump, who was unable to make the record trip because of commitments in Jasper, said he and stepsons, whom he considers sons, transitioned from one type of Gulf fishing to marlin fishing in May of 2023 when the Viking was purchased and named. The vessel name is a combination of initials from his family: wife Beth, Scott, son Taylor Robinson, daughters, Abby and Ila, and son Tyler.

“We’ve had some center consoles that we used for deep-dropping for grouper and snapper until we bought this boat,” Crump said.

Crump was the Toyota dealer in Jasper two years ago before health issues caused a significant change.

“I told my dad and doctor I was going to sell out, retire and enjoy life,” he said. “I told Daddy that I was going fishing. I think he underestimated what I was talking about.”

Since the Viking was christened in May, the boat has caught 74 marlin, including six on the trip after landing the potential record.

“We’ve burned a lot of fuel, but we’ve had a ball,” Crump said. “We’ve put 800 hours on the boat. We keep the boat at Sportsman’s-Harbor Marina. When you keep the boat at their marina, you can buy fuel at their cost. Capt. Chris figures we’ve saved about $25,000 because of that.

“We’ve entered a few tournaments and came close to winning. My wife and her sister finished second in a tournament.”

Crump credits Mowad and mate Addison Gilley for the boat’s successful angling adventures.

“Capt. Chris is a solid fisherman,” Crump said. “He doesn’t just run around and throw stuff out. He studies the current, studies the wind, studies the weather, and he’s really good with the sonar on the boat. Our mate, Addison, is as good as they come. We’ve lost very few fish this year. We’re in the running for the boat that has tagged the most marlin in the Gulf.

“With Chris and Addison, it’s like one big family. We’re thankful to have them.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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