Big-game fishing is a team sport. The angler on the rod is important, without question. But he or she cannot catch a big marlin or tuna weighing hundreds of pounds on their own. The captain drives to the prime spots and then skillfully maneuvers the boat during the fight, knowing when to back down and how to turn to keep the line tight. The mates rig baits, clear lines, wire the fish and handle the gaff or video camera with releases. Other crew members assist with clearing lines, rotating the fighting chair, pulling the fish aboard and a myriad of other chores. Success in a high-stakes tournament requires coordination, communication and timely execution.

Pulling off a world-class event like the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic requires teamwork ashore too. From marina workers delivering ice to the weigh scale crew manhandling stiff carcasses to all the necessary scoring, data management, financial accounting, crowd control, media coordination and marina logistics requires tremendous planning and execution. Sponsors are equally important. They provide goodies for the team buckets and crowd giveaways, educate the public about sport fishing and boating and help underwrite some of the costs of such an elaborate undertaking. The ECBC is fortunate to have a growing number of new sponsors, with many more loyal ones on board since the tournament began 14 years ago.

Sandestin® Golf and Beach Resort is the tournament’s Title Sponsor and Host Resort. Offering a beautiful setting with a first-class marina, lodging, dining, shopping and a wide variety of entertainment for anglers and family members alike, the resort is one of the main reasons this tournament is always among the most popular on the Gulf circuit.

Wind Creek Casino & Hotel-Atmore, another valuable member of the support team, stepped up this year as the ECBC’s Presenting Sponsor. Lynn Woodcock, Wind Creek’s Sponsorship and Event Manager, said the casino’s involvement was a natural fit.

“The fishing tournament is a way for us to get involved,” she explains. “It brings in a lot of people from all over the United States and we are very committed to giving back to the community. We want to become a partner with Sandestin, not just a sponsor. Being here this weekend is the best way to accomplish that.”

Wind Creek has been manning booths during registration and at the marina throughout the week. A crew of seven work split shifts, telling participants and spectators about their resort and giving away goodies. As an added attraction this year, Wind Creek brought in a couple of executive chefs from its cooking studio to showcase the menus and that attraction. This development could also lead to further collaboration between the two resorts. But it’s not all work for Woodcock and her team. They enjoy the excitement and drama of the tournament as well.

“I love it!” Woodcock adds. “I’ve tried to describe to people who haven’t been here how the marina comes alive with energy. It really is a fun, unique experience.” Additional sponsors play vital roles too.

Visit South Walton is the ECBC Tourism Partner, while Mojo Sportswear is a Tournament Partner. The gifted local painter, Larry Rackley, is this year’s tournament artist. Galati Yacht Sales, Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Southern Line and Viking Yachts are all Emerald Sponsors, with dozens more companies rounding out the Platinum, Gold and Silver sponsor ranks. All are crucial to the ECBC’s continuing success.

“This is always our favorite event to attend to see long-time friends and families we’ve met over the years,” says Jim Ford, owner of Southern Line Enterprises, which makes and sells vacuum-sealed stainless steel tumblers. They have a display right next to the weigh scale scoring tent at the marina. “We’re excited to launch a new brand here this week and introduce the public to our product line. We also like help out the ECBC. This tournament is top notch and it’s always a great networking opportunity.”

So as you wait on the fleet to return with their catch, be sure to check out the goods and services all the tournament sponsors are offering. Patronize them throughout the year. Each is a vital member of the entire team that make the ECBC possible.