On Oct. 19, 2023, the Best Trait, captained by Chris Mowad, fished the Blind Faith rig, located about 60 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The immense rig, the deepest operated by Chevron, sits in about 7,000 feet of water in Mississippi Canyon blocks 695 and 696 in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig stands 29 stories tall, including the massive structure underwater. A “block” covers one degree in latitude by two degrees of longitude or about 5,000 to 5,760 acres. It is located about 160 miles southeast of New Orleans.
Sitting in the hot seat that day, Scott “Scooter” Anderson, Jr. of Houston, Texas, fought a giant blue marlin in a duel to the death. The enormous blue weighed 1,145.60 pounds. It stretched 175 inches, or 14.58 feet, from the tip of its bill to its tail. Without the bill, the behemoth measured 145 inches long or just over 12 feet with an 84-inch, or 7-foot girth.
“All the credit goes to Captain Chris,” Anderson said modestly. “He marked it on the sonar and told us when to drop the baits. This is really Chris’s story. It’s a team effort to catch a fish like this. I’m more happy for Captain Chris. A captain dreams of catching a fish like this. I was just lucky enough that it ate my live bait.”
The crew also included Tyler Robinson, Travis Bashaw, Addison Gilly and Joseph Glover. Glover, from Prairieville, La., usually serves as a mate on another deep-sea boat. Scott Crump of Jasper, Ala. owns the Best Trait, a 55-foot Viking sportfisher.
Watching on sonar
At the Blind Faith rig, Mowad marked some fish. For bait, the team deployed two live 5-pound blackfin tuna, a favorite meal of big marlin. The captain tracked the marlin on sonar and watched it go for the tuna.
“We had one tuna on a tip rod and one on a rigger,” Glover said. “With the tip rod, we run it straight behind the boat. We put the other bait on the rigger so it goes farther out and the lines don’t get tangled. We ‘bump troll’ the bait by bumping the engines forward to keep the line tight. The big marlin hit the bait on the tip rod about 40 feet behind the boat. We watched it hit the bait with full force and eat the tuna.”
The team knew they hooked into a huge marlin. They just didn’t know how big. Early estimates put the fish at about 600 to 700 pounds, but they didn’t know they had a potential record on their line.
“The marlin piled into my live bait,” Anderson said. “We knew it was a good fish, but we didn’t think it was going to be a grander. It jumped twice, but it was far away. We couldn’t get a good judge of its size at that time. We were afraid she would get into the rig.”
Through skillful maneuvering, Captain Mowad kept the marlin in open water and away from entangling structure. In the fighting chair, Anderson battled the beast for more than an hour until it died on the line. It took another 25 minutes to bring it to the boat. The guys on the Best Trait pulled the giant up as far as they could and tied it to the fighting chair to wait for help.
“When the marlin died, we bumped the boat forward to bring it to the surface,” Glover said. “There was no way we were going to get that fish into our boat without help.”
Calls for help
Fortunately, the crew spotted another boat fishing in the area and Mowad knew the captain. He called for help and the other boat came to their assistance. Two men from the other boat boarded the Best Trait and helped pull the fish through the tuna door into the boat.
After landing the fish, the Best Trait headed back to Orange Beach, Ala., its homeport. After weighing the fish, they donated it to a zoo, which is using the meat to feed animals, and began the process to certify it as a state record.
“We’re all going to get a replica shoulder mount of it,” Anderson said. “After we brought in that big marlin, we went back out and caught four more blues the next day.”
The long-nose leviathan should become the Alabama state record. It easily beats the current Alabama record of 851.90 pounds by nearly 300 pounds. The huge fish must go through the certification process before it can become an official state record.
“I’ve caught many marlin, but I have never seen one this big before,” Glover said. “Before that day, the biggest fish that I put on a boat weighed 623 pounds. We did fight one on another trip for more than 18 hours. We estimated that fish at bigger than 900 pounds, but this was the first grander I’ve ever seen. Now we know there are big marlin like that in the Gulf of Mexico. If there was one, there might be more of them that size out there.”
Blue marlin records
Indeed, other granders, marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds, came from the Gulf, including those very same waters. The Best Trait fish topped the previous largest blue marlin ever caught in gulf waters. In 2002, Barry D. Carr set the Mississippi state record with a 1,054-pounder. That fish probably also came from off the Mississippi River delta.
In July 1977, Linda Koerner established the current Louisiana blue marlin record with a 1,018-pound fish she caught off the Mississippi River delta. The International Game Fish Association lists the world record blue marlin at 1,402 pounds, a fish caught off Brazil in 1992.
Although the Best Trait crew landed the biggest blue marlin ever pulled out of the Gulf of Mexico, they did not bring in the largest fish ever to come from gulf waters. In May 2003, Ron Roland and the crew of the Miss Cathy, landed a 1,152-pound bluefin tuna, the largest non-shark ever caught in the Gulf of Mexico.