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Blue marlin wins tourney, but Walterboro native Can’t Complain

Brian Cannon holds a nice dolphin caught on Can’t Complain.  Photo By Jeff Dennis

Brian Cannon holds a nice dolphin caught on Can’t Complain. Photo By Jeff Dennis

The South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series began its 25th Anniversary season at the Georgetown Landing Marina. The field of 33 fishing boats included attorney Mullins McLeod on his 50-foot sportfisher named Can’t Complain. By the end of the three day tournament, a large blue marlin was brought to the Georgetown Landing Marina by the boat Sportin’ Life, earning them the victory.

The day of offshore fishing on May 23 began at 4:30 a.m. as McLeod told his crew that the 50-foot Rybovich would shove off then. McLeod is one of the boat owners in the Governor’s Cup fleet that also serves as the boat Captain. His first mate is George Campsen, but he also had mates Michael Mattson and Jordan Parker on hand to help run the cockpit during the tournament. Friends Brian Cannon and Hunter Edwards rounded out the bluewater angling crew.

A three-hour ride to the gulf stream proved rough, having to navigate through two thunderstorms just off the coast. By 8 a.m. when fishing officially began, the storms had passed and the ocean calmed down to make for a beautiful fishing day. “This boat was made in 1981 by John Rybovich and I have enjoyed fishing it in the Governor’s Cup for the last six years,” said McLeod. “Besides this tournament, I usually like to compete in the Edisto Governor’s Cup later in July.”

The sportfishing boats have radios to communicate with each other while at sea; and on this tournament day, the radio was fired up with lots of chatter. Lots of billfish hook-ups were being reported to the committee boat. Some billfish were caught and released, while some simply jumped off the line and got away. Trolling ballyhoo for bait, the Can’t Complain was right alongside many of the other boats, but no billfish were raised.

By 10 a.m. it was clear to McLeod that the dolphin bite was going to be substantial. “I see a lot of bait stacked up in the water column using my depth finder,” said McLeod. “We’ll stay right here and hunt blue marlin for a while, but the dolphin may bother us.” Normally a day of fishing can be defined as a big success when plenty of mahi mahi are put in the fish box, but not during a billfish tournament.

“The Governor’s Cup rewards points for the release of blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish,” said McLeod. “My crew hasn’t won any of these events yet, but we sure like to try. I’ve always loved offshore fishing, but I grew up fishing in lakes and ponds around Walterboro, and I still prefer fishing in the Salkehatchie swamp to just about any other kind of fishing.”

Of course, all sports have a season, and offshore fishing is best during May, June and July. “We released a white marlin back on May 17, and I’m confident we’ll get our chance at a blue marlin this year too,” said McLeod. “Spending time on the ocean with friends like Brian and Hunter keep it fun, and the chance to keep trying my luck at offshore fishing makes me feel very thankful.”

Plenty of other boats didn’t release a billfish either at Georgetown, and that’s just fishing. However, it was Sportin’ Life that proved to have the luck on May 24 when they hooked and landed a blue marlin. Back at the weigh-in scales, the marlin weighed 534.2 pounds, giving first place to boat owner Graham Eubank, Captain Mike Glaesner and angler Dixon Pearce.

“The marlin hit about 2:40 in the afternoon and it just went ballistic,” said Pearce. “The fish tailwalked and jumped back and forth staying out of the water during the first several minutes of the fight. I wish we had made a GoPro video of the fish, because I would watch that replay every day, I think. After a 37-minute fight we brought the fish aboard, and headed back to port.”

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has scientists on hand to remove biological samples from any blue marlin brought to the docks. And keep in mind that the fleet released 38 total billfish during the tourney, including 21 blue marlin. The heaviest meatfish winners include Buck Bessinger for his 48.6-pound dolphin caught from Crystal Blue, Jamie Beard for his 60.4-pound wahoo caught from Big Sky, and Eddie Buck Jr. for his 22.8-pound blackfin tuna caught from Rookie IV.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (392 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com