Novice vs. Veterans in Grand Championship
July 10, 2014; Orange Beach, Alabama:
By Capt. Dave Lear
In a high-stakes tournament like the Blue Marlin Grand Championship, where more than a million dollars is on the line, there’s no shortage of veteran, professional teams. Many have owned multiple sport-fishing yachts and logged thousands of hours on the water. But every so often a novice team joins the fray, eager to learn the sport and compete with the pros. And for the 2014 Gulf blue water season, that boat is Controlled Chaos.
The new 66-foot Viking convertible is owned by Mike and Jennifer Attaway of Atlanta, Georgia. Daniel Menard is the seasoned skipper and Dennis Bennett mans the cockpit. The boat is based at the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin.
“We took delivery from Galati Yacht Sales on Easter weekend and spent four weeks aboard in the Bahamas this spring,” Jennifer explains. “I came up with the name after visiting the second grade classroom of my youngest daughter. When I asked the teacher how she coped with all those screaming kids, she replied it was ‘Controlled Chaos’ and that seemed appropriate for our crew.” The couple have five kids between them and they all love spending time on the new boat.
“I grew up hunting and when Jennifer and I got married we started fly-fishing in freshwater spots like Argentina.” Mike adds. “That evolved to the saltwater flats for tarpon and redfish, but we wanted something the whole family could do together. So we chartered some boats in the Bahamas before deciding to buy our own. We’re glad we did.”
“We’ve met so many nice people and everybody is in a good mood at these events, for the most part,” Jennifer says. “It’s a competitive atmosphere, yet everyone roots for each other and helps each other out. We’re really enjoying it.” The team is holding its own too.
With Galati veteran Spanky (Dennis Hill) joining the crew at the recent Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic in Sandestin, Controlled Chaos took third place in the Catch & Release division and Jennifer lost a big blue when the hook pulled loose in a dense weed line. Lucky charm Spanky is back again as an angler and chef extraordinaire for this week’s Grand Championship.
“I’m a greenhorn when it comes to offshore, so I just do what the guys tell me to do,” Mike says. “We’ve got a lot of great experience and knowledge with Daniel, Dennis and Spanky, so Jennifer and I are in good hands.”
The team hasn’t formulated a game plan yet, although Mike anticipated a westerly heading after consulting the Hilton’s water temperature charts. He was also confident of the team’s ability competing against the veteran fleet.
“I don’t feel intimidated ‘cause I don’t know enough yet. We’re just having fun. I love not seeing the lights from downtown Atlanta and looking at all those bright stars instead. Catching fish is a bonus.”
Controlled Chaos and the other 55 boats competing in the 2014 Grand Championship will soon get their chances. Fishing begins Thursday after the noon flare start. The smart money is on the veteran teams. But don’t discount beginner’s luck.