If you haven’t already heard the buzz, the Mid-Atlantic 500 Tournament was an absolute thrill, bringing together an impressive fleet of 181 boats and a prize pool of $5,790,020. We were fortunate enough to speak with Shon Craig — Galati customer and owner of the 80 Viking AMARULA SUN — and the second-place blue marlin division winner of the tournament, to delve into the heart-pounding moments of the event and the catch of a lifetime that didn’t pan out as hoped. Our conversation was an emotional rollercoaster, filled with disappointment, positivity, determination, and the fruits of exceptional teamwork. So, if you’re in need of a dose of motivation and inspiration, don’t click away just yet.
To provide you with some insight, on the very first day of the fishing tournament, Shon and his team had the incredible fortune of hooking a fish that could only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime catch. For those familiar with the world of sportfishing, the blue marlin reigns supreme as the ultimate catch — and the fish that Shon and his team had on their line was none other than a massive blue marlin, exceeding a staggering weight of 800 pounds. However, the excitement was short-lived as the fish ultimately faced disqualification.
As you can imagine, it is a remarkable feat to catch a blue marlin weighing in the 800-900-pound range. Shon recounted one other experience of catching a blue marlin in this size range during the White Marlin Open years back; however in that scenario, it passed up on the larger tackle and chose to bite on a 30 (very light rod).
The team had the fish alongside the boat within the first 15 minutes but despite getting it close to the boat nearly 30 times thereafter, the team couldn’t bring it in as each time it stayed just below the surface. If boated, this was a $2 million+ fish, according to the captain. They fought that fish for 8 hours, standing up; eventually having to break it off as time was not on their side. With that being said, the size of the blue marlin at the Mid-Atlantic 500 was equally impressive, and the team was resolute in their determination to successfully bring it aboard.
Shon described the moment when the fish was hooked, jumping out of the water far into the distance and revealing its presence as a blue marlin. However, the true size of the game fish remained elusive until they reeled it in closer, and only then did they realize the sheer enormity of this fish. With the marlin firmly hooked onto the 130-pound line, Shon carefully maneuvered the rod over to the fighting chair. “Frankly, the whole time all I was saying to myself was, ‘please don’t screw up’ … in a more colorful language,” Shon joked.
But he remained focused and determined. Inch by inch, he reeled the blue marlin towards the side of the boat, fully aware of the delicate balance between guiding the fish and the boat’s forward momentum. If you’re familiar with the art of fishing, you understand the dance that takes place as you navigate the fish alongside the boat. And so, after a mere 40 minutes, Shon had the marlin right beside the boat, still vibrant and full of energy. In angler terminology – the fish was still very green.
The skilled mates prepared to secure the fish with their gaffs, aiming to gain control over the head and the tail. But as the first mate made his move, the marlin’s vigorous response caught them off guard. It squirmed, reacting towards the first gaff, making it challenging for the second mate to successfully secure the gaff towards the tail-end of the fish.
The fish ended up dropping down in the water and in the blink of an eye, the marlin slipped under the boat and collided with the props. It was a devastating turn of events, knowing that they had come so close to a once-in-a-lifetime catch and a fish that could have single-handedly carried the tournament for Shon and his crew.
“As seasoned anglers, we’re always careful not to celebrate too much until the job is done,” shared Shon. However, this particular fish was no ordinary catch, it’d be nearly impossible not to be overcome with a profound sense of disappointment upon having to disqualify it.
Despite knowing it would be disqualified, the team carefully brought the fish onto the boat to bring it back in. They understood the international rules of billfishing and accepted that any degradation in the fish’s ability to fight would result in disqualification. However, the tournament committee wanted to weigh the fish and it came in at an impressive 808 pounds. To add more salt to the wound, the expert at the weigh station made an estimation that the fish had lost more than 100 pounds after hitting the props, potentially pushing its weight to a staggering 900+ pounds. On a more positive note, the fish does serve a greater purpose as it is generously donated to the tournament’s partnered food bank.
Filled with a deep sense of disappointment, team AMARULA SUN acknowledged the outcome and began their journey home. A heavy silence settled over the group as they reflected on the lost opportunity of a tournament win, fully aware of the significant impact it would have had for everyone.
After the disappointment of losing the once-in-a-lifetime catch, they all took the night to reflect and process emotions. The next day, with rough weather, the team decided to stay on land. “I suggested we go bowling,” stated Shon. “So, we did! We went bowling, had lunch, and enjoyed some ice cream together. Throughout our time together, we emphasized the importance of staying positive as a team and recognizing that we can always try again. We knew that unexpected outcomes are a part of the sport, so we focused on moving forward together.”
And so, filled with renewed determination and a sense of optimism, the team embarked on the third day of the tournament. “Everybody was upbeat, and in fact I never say this to the group, but I actually told them ‘I’ve got a good feeling about today,'” stated Shon. As they set out to the same fishing grounds, situated 140 miles offshore, it was around 3 o’clock when they hooked yet another blue marlin. “I knew it was not as big as the prior catch, but it was a decent size blue marlin,” said Shon. “I happened to hook it, so I was back in the chair again for the second time.”
Despite initial reservations from the captain, the team was firm in their determination to bring the fish onboard. “I can tell you from the time that I hooked it until the time we got it to the boat there was nothing but concentrated discussion about how we were going to gaff this fish,” Shon expressed. “We were not going to leave anything to chance.”
After just about 35 minutes, a much shorter time than the usual 2–3-hour fight with these big fish, the team successfully boated the blue marlin. “Everything was immaculately thought out with every scenario possible with what the fish would do, or how it would present itself on the side of the boat. We did an expert job gaffing the fish and coordinating the whole thing,” Shon proudly exclaimed. Their hopes were soaring high, praying that the catch would measure up. To their delight, after measuring it, they discovered that it more than met their expectations.
Their second catch, a 548-pounder, secured them second place in the tournament, narrowly missing out on first due to an 889 blue marlin brought in that day by PIPE DREAMER. With another lay day on Thursday, they eagerly awaited the results on Friday (the last day of the tournament), which confirmed their strong position in second place, securing a prize fund of close to half a million dollars.
“We have participated in numerous tournaments, but our team doesn’t often come out on top. While we consistently perform well, we don’t often match the success of say, TEAM GALATI,” Shon playfully stated. “That’s why this story is so heartwarming for us – it represents a remarkable turn of events. It was a truly extraordinary ending, where our biggest disappointment transformed into our greatest triumph, all within the same tournament.”
“The captain mentioned a phrase during our bowling outing on Tuesday, hinting at the idea of ‘belief and redemption’. The underlying message was clear – let’s go out there and catch another fish to redeem ourselves, not in the eyes of the world, but for the sake of our team… and that’s what we did.”
“Nothing felt better to me than to share the winnings with the captain and mates. It was an indescribable sensation that filled my heart with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment,” Shon stated. The team’s remarkable triumph not only filled them with a sense of victory, but it also carried the assurance of a radiant future for both the team and their loved ones.
Curious to know what advice Shon has for anglers facing a similar situation, I posed the question to him. “Winning and losing as a team may sound cliché, but it holds true. However, the most important aspect is to have fun and cherish the camaraderie and collaboration that comes with working together,” Shon said. “Having a group of highly skilled anglers may seem impressive, but true teamwork is what transforms them into a cohesive and successful team.”
“On our boat, we have a philosophy of never looking down on or blaming anyone, whether it’s the owner or a mate who may make a mistake. Everyone is treated equally, and we understand that we win and lose as a team, supporting each other through it all. It’s a principle we live by, and it has brought us great success and a sense of unity.” – Shon Craig, Owner of the 80 Viking AMARULA SUN, and valued Galati customer.
Kudos to Shon Craig and his incredible crew, consisting of Sharyn Craig, Captain Danny Veid, Derick Testa, Amy Stewart, Jimmy Linus, and Dustin McCabe, for taking home second place in the blue marlin division and refusing to let defeat hinder their progress. Their unwavering determination and positive mindset truly paid off, as they proved that persistence and optimism can lead to great success in the end.
The 2018 80′ Viking Convertible Yacht – AMARULA SUN is an amazing luxury sportfish that surpasses all others in its class. It is designed for long-term excursions and offers unmatched attention to detail. With additional fuel tanks and redundant systems, it is ready to travel the world for fishing or cruising. Inside, it features a spacious salon, fully equipped galley, and can accommodate up to ten guests in five staterooms. The master stateroom is a true oasis with luxurious amenities. Don’t miss the opportunity to own this legendary Viking 80!