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Meridian Anglers Catch big Marlin

By By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
July 4, 2003
A group of Meridian anglers recently competed in the New Orleans International Big Game Fishing Invitational and came away with some big bucks.
The team consisted of Captains Spike and Jason Watts, Billy Humphrey, Louis Gray, Mike Heard, David Burns Sr., David Burns Jr., Jay Lauderdale, John R. Campbell and Wally Hudnall.
On the first day of the tourney they landed a 611 pound 4 ounce blue marlin, which is really big for this part of the world. Lewis Gray was the angler of the moment when the big blue struck.
Almost as soon as Gray hooked the monster, it stripped out line up to 250 yards away and vaulted skyward time after time. "When it came out of the water the first time I knew it was a fine one," said Mike Heard.
Usually the marlins fight up to four hours before giving up. On this occasion however, the fish tired after so many jumps for freedom and quickly wore down.
As it turned out Heard was right, that the fish was a nice one. It took the big fish honors for day two and led the tournament for two days.
Big fish honors for that day brought the team $11,600.00. Spike and Jason Watts have their own charter boat, the "Undertaker," which operates out of Orange Beach. However, on this day they were members of the team that fished out of Captain Ricky McDuffies 62 foot "Sea Hunter." Jimmy, T. Roy and Brad were deck hands on board the day of the big catch.
The Rick Clunn of saltwater
McDuffie is getting a pretty good reputation when it comes to catching big fish in tournaments. In fact, some have likened him to the biggest name in bass fishing Rick Clunn.
While they did miss out on the first place prize of $50,000 plus, they had a memorable tournament day that won't soon be forgotten. Catching and landing a 611 pound eleven-foot long fish is an awesome feat indeed. To be on board and witness the spectacle would be very special as well.
During another recent billfish tourney McDuffies boat anglers won the top tag and release award at Biloxi. McDuffie has become so proficient at locating and finding big fish that he is a threat in almost any blue marlin tourney he enters.
To actually go out there and consistently catch the big ones is the true measure of a captain. And let there be no doubt, Rick McDuffie is a captain to be reckoned with.
Catch one for Ralph
One theme of the trip was to catch a big one for a former friend and angler of the team who recently passed away. Ralph Arrington had been with the group and landed a 431 pound blue marlin a couple of years ago that won the tournament. During that tourney, they won money in three divisions.
The focus for this tournament became, "Let's go get one for Ralph." Of course they never dreamed that they would catch such a special marlin on this trip. In normal times that fish would have won hands down, but it wasn't to be, as another boat caught an even bigger one that edged them out for the overall tourney championship.
Theres not too many times that an angling team is successful at catching a fish over 600 pounds, and to do it in a tournament in memory of a special friend and fellow angler is rare indeed. Next year the boys will be back at it again, hoping that their buddy can send them another big one!

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