A 796.9-pound blue marlin was the highlight of the second day of fishing at the 22nd Annual Gulf Coast Billfish Classic in Biloxi on Saturday.
Chase Pate of Pensacola, fishing on Reel Addiction, caught the tournament's biggest fish early Saturday morning 160 miles out in the Gulf.
"That's an experience of a lifetime," said Pate. "I never thought anything like this would happen at the last minute like it did. We were running out of time and got real lucky. We got one bite all weekend, and that was it — 796-pounder.
"That was crazy. Caught the fish in 30 minutes. It took 47 minutes to hook the fish and put it in the boat. We never saw it until it was about 40 feet away. It never jumped. It bit, no explosion, nothing; we got one bite, and that was it. We couldn't tell how big it was until it got right next to the boat."
Pate's blue marlin moved to the top of the leaderboard past the two fish brought in on Friday.
Alex Krake's 739.2-pounder finished second in the category, and Edgar McKee's 611.5-pounder was third.
Pate expected to earn about $434,000 of the $2.3 million that is expected to be paid out at Sunday's awards banquet.
Reel Addiction owner Rocky Jones recalled winning the catch-and-release category 12 years earlier.
"It was the first year of our 56 Viking. It was brand new then," said Jones. "She still is catching fish.
"So much competition here," said Jones about coming back every year to fish this tournament. "The best of the best are here. To be in the mix with the best of the best is as thrilling as it gets."
In the tuna category, Robeau Whibbs, fishing on team Sweet Pea, took first place with a 182.3-pound fish, followed by Bennie Goldman Jr., fishing on team Relentless (172.8-pounder) and Sawyer York on team First Choice (166.3-pounder). No one won the state record prize, as no tuna entered beat the existing state record of 203.9 pounds set in 2011.
In the dolphin category, Johnny Moore of team Alma Ann finished in first place (57.2), followed by Keith Berry on Deadline (45.2) and Michael Burroughs of Quick Time (44.6).
Jeff Dees of team Lined Out finished in first place in the Wahoo category (61.4), followed by Doug Lake of team Seament (48.5) and Neal Foster of team Intense (46.4).
Anthony Staffer of Hay Ride had the largest swordfish (144.1), followed by Matt Carpenter of Long Straw (125.2) and Anthony Lopez of Titan Up (123.5).