Mother Nature has an attitude this summer. The advance forecast for the 2019 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic looked chamber-of-commerce perfect. But as the tournament week drew closer, the winds picked up and the seas continued building to what is expected to be uncomfortable levels offshore on the original start date. So, in the interest of safety and comfort, adjustments were made. The fleet will now depart from Destin Pass on 7 am Friday to fish both Saturday and Sunday. That decision didn’t come easily, but it has widespread support.
“We talked to about two dozen teams earlier in the week and then met with our advisory committee on Monday,” says Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “We were hoping for a best-case scenario with the seas laying down Thursday, but after reviewing all the weather reports and assessing the conditions we made the decision to move the start back to Friday. Our number one concern is keeping the safety of our participants in mind.
“We also had to juggle our marina capacity situation, check with our vendors and sponsors, plus work with the resort to extend the rooms for our tournament staff. That was the biggest headache because this is such a busy time of year for Sandestin. But in the end, I’m confident we made the right decision and we’re going to still have a fantastic event in the real ECBC tradition.”
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” adds Julia Brakhage of Tournament Control, the scoring and information management company that handles registration. “The smartest thing we did was to make an early decision and get the word out. We had to work around several other existing Sandestin events, but the response was overwhelmingly positive to how we handled it. Now we just need for the fleet to come out and bet before we close registration at 2 pm on Thursday.”
At the close of Wednesday’s registration window, 87 boats were pre-registered with more than $760,000 in base and optional cash prize entries. In addition to the base entry, boats can elect to enter optional jackpots for weighed and released fish. The ECBC has been among the richest sport-fishing contests in the world for much of its history.
Boats can begin fishing immediately after Friday’s 7 am start. Many, however, will run well over 100 miles to proven waters like those off the Spur, Squiggles, DeSoto Canyon and the numerous oil and gas rigs located offshore from coastal Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Eligible species include blue marlin, which must measure at least 110 inches from the lower jaw to the tail fork to be weighed. Smaller blues, white marlin and sailfish count for release points, verified by video footage. Weighed yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo score one point per pound.
Even though the start is delayed by a day, the 2019 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is shaping up to be… well, another classic. It’s fun to fool Mother Nature sometimes.