Ben Arnold was holding the other line, somewhere out in the Gulf of Mexico at noon Friday when the unmistakable jolt struck.

He’s caught big fish before. Nothing this size.

After switching chairs with his fellow angler on Reel Addiction, it soon got real, all right, very quickly.

After a three and half hour, exhausting fight, Arnold and the crew hauled in a massive blue marlin that tipped the scales at 771.40 pounds, becoming the wow catch in Saturday’s final day of the 46th annual Pensacola International Billfish Tournament.

“It took about this morning when I woke up for the adrenaline to stop,” said Arnold, 22, a Pensacola native and Tate High graduate. “It is a feeling you can’t describe. You have to live through it to describe it.

“It would be one thing to catch just for fun fishing, but to also have it in a tournament like this, that’s even more on top of it.”

It earned him and the crew of Reel Addiction, which is docked at Pensacola Beach, the Vince Whibbs Big Blue Award of $10,000 and plenty of awestruck faces of spectators at dockside at Pensacola Yacht Club.

It took four men to haul the massive marlin, estimated to be between 30-35 years old, inside the boat.

The fish was caught 155 miles from Pensacola Pass. The state record for a blue marlin catch is 1,046 pounds caught by a charter boat captain in Destin.

“I kinda thought it was real big at first. It was just up on top and back and forth real fast,” Arnold said, describing the battle. “After I fought it for about an hour it started diving going down to the thermocline.

“It stayed there for about an hour or two…. come up, then dive back down. All you can do really is not give an inch. I couldn’t have done it without the crew. It’s like one big family.”

The annual event is sponsored by the Pensacola Big Game Fishing Club. The tournament had 53 Boats, 230 anglers and $250,200 in cash awards.

Once a staple of downtown and Palafox Pier, this year’s event moved to PYC for more accessibility for boats and docks.

The weather cooperated as well with two days of crystal blue sky in the late afternoon.

The prize marlin will be donated to the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. The fish will be mounted on a wall at the facility.

The educational museum displays skeletons from animals and sea creatures from all over the world.

“It will be around for a lot of people to see and going to a good cause,” said Arnold. “We are going to fly up there or drive up there and check it our ourselves.”

Equally impressive Saturday was the crew of Bleu Sky from Port Aransas, Texas, near Corpus Christi. They caught three blue marlin in two days, catching and releasing the smallest one.

The boat hauled a 450.81 pound marlin Saturday in addition to its catch and release marlin.

“What a deal,” said lead angler Matthew Mosser. “It was the trip of a lifetime. My crew here, they are as good as they get. We have a great team. A lot of times you only get one shot. and if you mess up that’s it.”

That same kind of realization struck Arnold.

The longer he looked at the massive sport fish aboard Reed Addiction, the more Arnold was amazed at what happened.

“It was honestly kind of surreal,” he said. “I didn’t know what to think at first But after looking at it for the past day and a half, it kinda all sunk in. When they gave the weight on the scale, that’s what made it all come true, I guess.

“It is definitely an amazing fish, for sure. When we first got a glimpse of it underwater, we didn’t think it was that big. We thought it was 400 or 500 pounds. But the way it fought, it was similar to a big one we took last year.”

Arnold said the fight left him exhausted.

“I’m pretty sore,” he said. “The rod was bowed the entire time. It never gave any slack, so it is very tiring.”

The complete tournament winners and awards will be announced at a brunch Sunday at the Pensacola Yacht Club.

The weigh scales remained open until 8 p.m. but any boats in line would be able to weigh fish.

Source of Article: Bill Vilona (Pensacola News Journal)