The group of seven anglers leaving Ocean Springs Harbor on March 18 had one destination and one species in mind: the Horseshoe Rigs and amberjack. When they came home, they carried the pending state record AJ.

The seas were perfect for the 75-mile sprint to the rigs, but the crew ran into an immediate problem on the way out. Namely, there was little bait to be found.

"We caught three hardtails and seven or eight bluefish," Long Beach's Troy Helwig said.

When the boat came off plane near the targeted rigs, owner Billy Davis of Ocean Springs began working the bottom finder to locate a submerged structure in the crystal-clear blue water.

That accomplished, baits were dropped in the water. Soon the first fight of the day was on, and Joseph Williams man-handled an amberjack to the side of the boat.

It was a solid 80-pounder, and the anglers couldn't believe just how big it was.

"It was the biggest amberjack I've ever seen caught on line and reel," Helwig said. "I've got some friends who spearfish, and I've seen some big fish they've shot. But I've never seen an 80-pound amberjack live on the boat.

"It was incredible."

However, the trip only got better.

After landing three more AJs ranging from 35 to 60 pounds, Helwig hooked into another monster. The line finally gave just before he was able to pull the mass of muscle close enough to gaff, and the 75- to 80-pound fish swam away.

With only three baits remaining, Helwig and two of the others started rigging up. Robbie Williams was the first to drop his bait, which was quickly set upon by an AJ.

Kyle Widdows was next. His bait was likewise crushed when it hit to bottom.

"Kyle asked me if I wanted that fish, and I said, 'No, thanks,'" Helwig said. "I wanted to hook my own fish."

Helwig asked the captain if he should drop while the other two fish were being fought, and was given the go-ahead.

As soon as his bait neared the bottom, a third fish slammed it. Davis had to manuever the boat around to keep the three anglers from entangling their lines.

The first AJ was quickly cleared by Kyle Widdows, as Helwig and Robbie Williams continued to battle their fish.

Finally, Robbie Williams wrestled the second of the three amberjacks to the gaff – and everyone aboard the boat gasped.

The AJ filled the deck of the boat, eventually weighing in at 95 pounds.

"We were thinking it was a possible record fish," Helwig explained. "We thought the record at the time was 106 pounds, and we knew it would be close."

Helwig didn't have much time to look at it, however; he was busy with a fish that wasn't coming to the boat willingly.

"I knew it was a good fish, but it was really hard to tell (how big it was) because we only had two fighting belts – so three-quarters of the fight I didn't have a fighting belt," he said. "It was really hard; I was doing all I could to wear it down."

When the fish could be seen beneath the boat, everyone knew it was another monster. After a tough 30 minutes, the fish finally reached the gaff, was hauled over the gunnel and thrown next to Robbie Williams 97-pounder.

Helwig was stunned.

"My fish was bigger than that (Robbie Williams' fish)," Helwig said.

See more photos of the amberjack in our Offshore Fishing reports forum.

It was all the tired, 6-foot-tall, 215-pound angler could do to lift the massive AJ for a photo.

"When it was measured, I think it taped out at 68 inches long," Helwig said.

The crew hurried back to Gorenflo's Tackle in Biloxi to have the fish officially weighed.

"We arrived at Gorenflo's only to find out that the state record was 113 pounds and some change," Helwig said.

That 113-pound, 13.6-ounce AJ was landed Aug. 10, 2008, by William Oubre, according to Mississippi Division of Marine Resources records.

Besting Oubre's fish wasn't a problem for Helwig's big amberjack.

"The first time we weighed the fish, it showed 115.2 pounds, and the drinks started flowing," Helwig said.

An hour later, Jim Franks with the Mississippi Division of Marine Resources arrived to officially certify the weight.

The scales settled at 114.2 pounds.

The pending record amberjack was caught on 80-pound mono and an 80-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader tipped with a 7/0 Owner hook. The reel was a Penn matched with a Penn Slammer rod.