Ronald Stalvey catches large blue marlin off SC coast

Trey Jordan, Ronald Stalvey and Matt Winburn show off a blue marlin before releasing it 80 miles offshore of Georgetown on April 24.

Trey Jordan, Ronald Stalvey and Matt Winburn show off a blue marlin before releasing it 80 miles offshore of Georgetown on April 24.

Submitted photo

Ronald Stalvey, owner/operator of Stalvey’s Bait and Tackle, goes by the nickname ‘Catfish’ and his shop is located in Conway, the mecca of freshwater fishing in Horry County.

For the last four years, Stalvey has been delving into the world of offshore saltwater fishing, cutting his teeth on the intricacies of catching big-game species such as wahoo, dolphin and tuna, and deep-water reef species like grouper, amberjack, red snapper, triggerfish and porgy.

Stalvey and his cousin, Trey Jordan, started fishing offshore aboard Jordan’s 29-foot Proline and now Stalvey has his own 232 Sportsman Open, powered by a single 250-horsepower Yamaha with a 105-gallon fuel tank.

On April 24, the seas cooperated and both boats headed offshore to get in on some of the springtime dolphin action that has ramped up in the last few weeks.

Heading out of the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown, they stopped at the Georgetown Hole, about 65 miles to the southeast. Stalvey, fishing with his cousin Matt Winburn, boated four dolphin and a blackfin tuna.

Looking for warmer water farther into the Gulf Stream, both boats headed 15 more miles offshore and settled in for more trolling some 80 miles out in depths of over 1,000 feet..

“We were running six lines with ballyhoo,” recalled Stalvey. “On the port side short line with a purple and black (skirt), I look back and there’s a blue marlin trailing the bait. I saw him and two seconds later he hit the bait.”

This was no catfish that Stalvey was hooked up with.

“That’s the first time I’ve laid my eyes on one, (but) I knew right off the bat.”

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A blue marlin caught and released by Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey appears near the boat 80 miles offshore of Georgetown on April 24. Submitted photo

The marlin took off, as Winburn quickly woke up from a nap on the bow.

“Matt starts clearing lines and we had to go chase the fish,” said Stalvey. “He dumped about 500 yards of line (of 700 total yards) off my reel in about 30 seconds. We turned the boat and started chasing him down.”

With Winburn at the helm and Stalvey perched with the rod on the gunwale near the bow, the duo settled in for a long fight with the sizable blue marlin.

“I was in that position for 2 hours and 12 minutes,” said Stalvey.

Stalvey was using a medium-heavy rod with orange 100-pound Diamond hollow core line with 100 yards of 80-pound line spliced ​​into it, a setup meant for dolphin and tuna, not monster marlin.

“I’m thankful everything held up,” said Stalvey. “It shows how good my splicing skills are.”

After an exhausting fight, Stalvey had the huge marlin at boatside.

“When I laid my hands on his bill, he lit up,” said Stalvey. “He was beautiful. I had a 30-foot tape measure and the short length (lower jaw to fork) was 105 inches. That estimates him at about 400 pounds. The tip of the bill to the tip of tail was 130 inches.”

Trey Jordan came aboard from his boat to help Stalvey and Winburn release the fish. After holding it in place as Logan Estep snapped a few photos from Jordan’s boat, the release was complete and they watched the blue swim away.

“He swam off like he wasn’t even touched – he was healthy,” said Stalvey. “I got the hook, the rig and everything back.”

Once the adrenaline subsided, Stalvey was done, worn out after the long battle with the behemoth on relatively light tackle.

“After I caught the blue, that was it, we went to the house,” said Stalvey last week. “I was beat and I didn’t want to see another fish. That’s a fight I hope to have again one day but I’ve never had anything pull and fight like that in my life. It was wild. I’m still in shock.”

Using his measurements, Stalvey plans to have a replica of the marlin made and placed in his bait shop in Conway.

“Fish of a lifetime, but I never dreamed I would catch one, much less just Mahi fishing out there,” said Stalvey. “I never dreamed I’d catch a fish like that, and of that size, right off our coast.”

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Ronald ‘Catfish’ Stalvey sits near the bow of his 232 Sportsman Open while fighting a sizeable blue marlin 80 miles offshore of Georgetown on April 24. Submitted photo

Conway youth anglers shine

The Conway Tiger Anglers got it done for Conway High School on April 23 at the SC Department of Natural Resources’ Youth Bass Fishing Championship on Lake Marion.

The Tiger Anglers added to their trophy case by winning the team championship in the event, buoyed by solid performances from a pair of two-angler teams.

The freshman duo of Cody Wilder and Dalton Williams weighed in a bag of three bass for an aggregate of 7.79 pounds for the fifth best weight of the high school division.

Just a hair behind them in sixth place were Mason Hardee and Will McGuirt also with a three-bass bag weighing 7.76 pounds.

The combination gave the four Tiger Anglers a weight of 15.55 pounds for the six fish and earned them the high school team title over Broome with 13.45 pounds. Dorman won the Middle School Division with a 7.38-pound aggregate.

“Man, it’s just amazing to be able to go and do what you love and win a tournament like that,” said Wilder. “To go to high school from middle school and still be able to compete at the state level is just amazing.”

On tournament day, Wilder and Williams worked a green pumpkin Senko and a buzz bait and quickly found the Senko was producing better.

“After an hour, we stopped the topwater and both started throwing the worm,” said Williams.

But the bite was slow. With Williams’ dad, Chad Williams, at the helm, the duo only had three bites all day. But they made them count.

All the largemouth they enticed bites from wound up in the live well for the weigh-in.

Hardee, a sophomore, and McGuirt, a junior, were guided by Hardee’s dad, Rodney Hardee. The duo were also efficient on a slow day as they only got three bites but gave all three bass a ride in the live well.

After throwing a variety of lures, Hardee and McGuirt settled in on two.

“We tried everything from crankbait to chatterbait, spinnerbait – you name it we threw it,” said Hardee. “The only thing working was a green Senko and a green-pumpkin Brush Hog and we fished with those all day.”

Hardee got the big bite for the Conway team, landing a 4.52-pounder that wound up being the third-largest bass caught in the tournament. Hardee was excited to help the Tiger Anglers win by catching such a largemouth lunker, something that isn’t too common on their home waters, the local rivers in Horry and Georgetown counties.

“I caught the big one on a green-pumpkin Brush Hog,” said Hardee. “We don’t get a lot of chances to catch a big fish. The 4.5 I caught really secured the win for us. It just feels great. It feels great to bring it back home to Conway.”

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Conway Tiger Anglers Cody Wilder, Dalton Williams, Mason Hardee and Will McGuirt claimed the SC DNR Youth Bass Fishing Championship team title for high school anglers on Lake Marion on April 23. Submitted photo

Wyatt Moore, a home-schooled student, caught the biggest bass in the high school division, a 6.19-pounder, followed by Josh Upton of Broome with a 5.0-pounder. Austin Miller of Gilbert weighed in the largest bass of the middle school division, a 5.55-pounder.

Upton and Ethan Burnett of Broome had the top two-angler weight in the high school division of 13.45 pounds.

The Conway Tiger Anglers have become a force to be reckoned with at the state level.

In 2016, Noah Jones and Manning Felder took first place in the tournament. This same year, the duo also won the BASS Juniors State Championship.

In 2018, Chandler Brown and Austin Winburn won the BASS High School State Championship.

This story was originally published May 3, 2022 6:30 AM.

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