Successful tournament fishing requires skill, well-equipped boats and the proper tackle. ECBC teams definitely meet this criteria, which is why the competition is always so intense. Being in the right spot at the right time is another key to catching winning fish. Luck sometimes plays a role in this, but successful crews increase the odds by utilizing satellite image forecasting services like FishTrack to target likely zones. FishTrack and Buoyweather are ECBC tournament sponsors again this year.

“While the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is still a few weeks away, it never hurts to look at FishTrack’s satellite imagery to spot oceanic trends that may influence where and when the billfish will likely bite come tournament time,” says Charlie Levine, publisher and editor of FishTrack. “The largest oceanic influencer in the Gulf of Mexico is the Loop Current. Its northern tip is currently 160 nautical miles south of Pensacola near an area known as Lloyd’s Ridge.”

Warm-water eddies spin off of the Loop Current and move west/southwest toward Louisiana and Texas. These features often push offshore pelagic fish closer to the coast. Eddies can last up to a year.

“We are currently seeing a large eddy about 76 nautical miles south of Louisiana,” Levine adds. “It will bring warmer, blue water to Green Canyon and several drill platforms. Keep an eye on this eddy over the coming weeks and monitor its movement to spot any trends that you may be able to intersect. If the eddy comes within range, you’ll want to fish along the edge, especially over the continental shelf or near any oil rigs it may interact with.”

Weather is the final piece of the puzzle and anyone near the Emerald Coast this spring has experienced the near-constant wind. Strong winds can affect surface temperatures as warmer and cooler currents intermix.

“Water temps in the Gulf region are a degree or two cooler than they were this time last year. How much that may affect the bite is still unknown. However, we have heard many reports of good yellowfin tuna action when boats can find a weather window. For the latest 7-day wind and swell forecasts, make sure to visit buoyweather.com,” Levine says.

All ECBC participants will receive a free trial to play around with FishTrack and a 20 percent discount towards a premium subscription to FishTrack and/or Buoyweather. Anglers and crews can use these services to find the warm blue water in the Gulf before leaving the dock.

The FishTrack app is another handy tool for contestants. The imagery can be saved on your mobile device to allow access to the charts and data when fishing outside of cell coverage. Waypoints can also be saved in the FishTrack app. Once aboard, the GPS coordinates can be plugged into the plotter before blasting out the pass. To learn more about using FishTrack, check out the tutorials located on FishTrack.com.

Loop Current

This FishTrack image shows the currents associated with the Loop Current and an eddy. Fishing along the edge of these bodies of water, especially anywhere where the warmer water interacts with structure, would be a solid game plan for catching blue marlin.

Gulf Chlorophyll Chart

This FishTrack chlorophyll image shows the blue water associated with the eddy south of Louisiana.

Gulf Altimetry Chart

This FishTrack altimetry (sea surface height) chart shows a down-welling created by the Loop Current, noted by the positive numbers in the lower righthand side of the chart. The eddy, on the other hand, is creating an upwelling, noted by the negative numbers in the yellow / green area. Fishing along the zone where these two areas converge will likely produce some bites. Convergence zones are always a good indicator of potential fish action.