PENSACOLA, Fla.— Ben Arnold has caught big fish before. But nothing this size.
After a three-and-a-half-hour, exhausting fight Friday, Arnold, of Pensacola, Fla., and the crew on Reel Addiction, hauled in a massive blue marlin that tipped the scales at 771.40 pounds, becoming the wow catch during the 46th annual Pensacola International Billfish Tournament.
"It took about this morning when I woke up for the adrenaline to stop," said Arnold, 22, on Saturday. "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."
The haul earned him and the crew of Reel Addiction, the Vince Whibbs Big Blue Award of $10,000.
It took four men to haul the massive marlin out of the Gulf of Mexico inside the boat. The marlin was estimated to be between 30 to 35 years old.
"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."
Although large, Arnold's catch is not the largest haul in the state. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state record is 1,046 pounds. Four years ago, the Alabama state record was shattered when a blue marlin weighing 845.8 pounds was caught during the 2013 Blue Marlin Grand Championship, according to Marlin Magazine.
According to Field & Stream, the world record marlin catch was set in 1992 in Brazil with a weight of 1,402.2 pounds.
Arnold's 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," Arnold said. "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.
"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 Reel 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."