Team Overcomes Rough Weather to Land Tournament Record Blue Marlin
The 10th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, presented by Mojo Sportfishing Gear, took place June 20-24 at the Sandestin® Golf and Beach Resort, located in Florida’s scenic Panhandle region. In the days leading up to this year’s event the uncertainty of what would eventually turn into Tropical Storm Debbie reduced the fleet of participating vessels from 71 to 38 shortly before the start of the tournament. However, those who braved the conditions were rewarded with some spectacular offshore fishing including two tournament record catches.
Done Deal, a 56-foot Viking captained by Jason Buck from Fairhope, Alabama, went to sea during the tournament knowing the conditions would be difficult with high winds and heavy seas. However, the Mobile, Alabama-based angler Travis Dorland was able to make the best of the situation, taking advantage of their one big bite and battling a whopper of a marlin during the second day of competition. Back at the ECBC Baytowne Marina scales the huge fish weighed in at 783.6 pounds, marking a new tournament record for the tenth anniversary of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Dorland was also named Top WBS (World Billfish Series) Angler.
But the team was far from finished. Done Deal angler Lance Hightower reeled in the tournament’s first place dolphin (mahi-mahi) at 42.3 pounds, while Roy Hammock Jr. landed a 68.2 pound yellowfin tuna to finish third in that category. The Done Deal also released two white marlin for good measure taking home prize money in several divisions that totaled $261,540. The team’s big blue would also be the only billfish weighed in; there were an additional 27 billfish released by the fleet of participating boats: seven blue marlin, 16 white marlin and four sailfish.
The Top Release Team this year was Inlet Magic, a 64-foot Billy Holton captained by Jeremy Miles from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. They let go one blue marlin and one white marlin and, based on the time of their last release, placed just ahead of the second place team with 600 points. They will have their names inscribed on the Magnificent Blue Perpetual Trophy that is on permanent display at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. In addition, the Inlet Magic team won $46,695 in prize money for their achievement and were named the Top IGFA Team garnering an invitation to the 2013 IGFA World Championship.
In the gamefish divisions, the Done Deal landed the winning dolphin but the top tuna prize would go to angler Jake Breaux aboard Testing the Water, a 68-foot Viking with Capt. Mike Dunn at the helm. Breaux, from Morgan City, Louisiana, landed a huge yellowfin tuna that scaled 190.1 pounds, also a new tournament record and good for $19,893. In the wahoo division, Rod Morris from the Summertime II was the big winner, weighing a 91.1-pound wahoo and taking home $30,120.
In the individual angler standings, You Never Know’s Sari Turner led the way as the Top Release Angler with one blue marlin (on time) while Peggy Hudson was the Top Lady Angler on the Iona Louise with 531 points (one marlin release plus gamefish weights). In the junior standings, nine-year old Tristan Gandy on the Dream’s Wake II placed first followed by his twelve-year old brother Dylan in second.
In addition to being one of the Top Ten Big Money Tournaments in the World (according to Marlin magazine), the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin also benefits many notable charities including The Billfish Foundation and Harvest House.
The 11th Annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin will be held June 19-23, 2013.