Mother Nature put a damper on the 2017 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin when Tropical Storm Cindy blew through days before the start. Still, even lingering swells couldn’t stop three dozen teams from competing in what is normally the largest—and richest—big-game tournament on the Gulf Coast. Appropriately enough, Don’t Blink, a 56 Viking owned by Jason Benton, narrowly edged Team Supreme for this year’s Classic honors with a 553-pound blue. Mike Hickey was the angler on that winning fish, with Capt. Skip McAllister at the helm and mates Sid Little and Wayne Riles in the cockpit. That win was the catalyst for more potential honors.

Along with thousands in prize money and prestige, the ECBC offers contestants chances for more glory. The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, InTheBite Captain of the Year Cup and the Offshore World Championship are all affiliated with the ECBC and provide more ways for the participants to win.

The Triple Crown is scored on a hybrid system that includes both weight and release points for the top three finishes in the blue marlin divisions only in the five participating events. Series participation, weighed marlin lengths and tournament marlin records also earn bonus points. The overall winning team receives The Championship Trophy, a seven-foot tall, one of a kind masterpiece handcrafted by metal artist Frank Ledbetter that is valued at $18,000. In addition to the ECBC, the circuit includes the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.

The Offshore World Championship is a prestigious international tournament with winning teams from around the world invited to participate. It will be held in Quepos, Costa Rica, in April 2018. The billfish-release scoring and tournament-supplied boats offers a unique format and levels the playing field. Don’t Blink received the exclusive invitation to compete in the 2018 Offshore World Championship after winning this year’s ECBC.

InTheBite Magazine sponsors the Captain of the Year Cup to recognize the top professional captains each season on five distinct big-game circuits, including the Gulf of Mexico. Points are scored based on top three standings, heaviest marlin and overall championship wins. The top skipper in each division earns the respect and honor from the magazine and their peers. Don’t Blink’s Capt. McAllister is under consideration for this honor based on the ECBC victory.

So as teams make plans for the 2018 tournament season, don’t forgot about these extra qualifiers. Winners of next year’s Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic will be eligible for special bonus rounds, too.