It’s tournament week at the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin and the new docks and fuel pumps are bustling with activity as teams make final preparations for the 2019 ECBC. The official start is 7 am Friday and there is a lot at stake. Like more than $1.8 million in cash prizes to the eventual winners. So what makes a person spend hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars on a boat, tackle, gear, crew, fuel and provisions to run 100-plus miles offshore to do battle with a cold-blooded animal that has a bill for a nose and ticked-off attitude? We asked several participants what motivates them to tournament fish. Here are their responses:

“I love the competition and the Bloody Mary party Sunday morning after you win,” says Capt. Joey Birbeck, skipper of You Never Know!, a 72 F&S that calls Sandestin home. “There are a lot of good fishermen in the Gulf and it’s very competitive. Whether you’re lure fishing or live baiting, depending on the conditions one may be better than the other. So you never know who’s going to be the big winner,” he says with a sly grin.

Ron Davis owns Southern Charm, a Hatteras 63 GT, and has been tournament fishing with his family for two years. Davis runs a big company with 21,000 employees, so getting offshore is therapy for him.

“I started out fishing in a jon boat and now I’m blessed to own this boat and be able to fish with family and friends,” he says. “There’s a lot of good people and camaraderie in this sport. But I really love being out on the water. After we go through that pass and get on plane, my phone kicks off and I totally relax.”

Capt. Chase Lake and Team Supreme is another Destin-based boat that’s always a player in the ECBC. Chase cuts straight to the chase when it comes to his motivation.

“The excitement and competition,” he says. “When I get a big marlin on the back deck, that’s my favorite time.”

“I do this because I’m a gambler,” explains Jane Solomon on One More. “We’ve got good odds and I’m extremely competitive. I always want to catch the biggest fish.”

“The challenge,” Neal Foster, owner of Intense, answers when explaining why he and his team mates run hundreds of miles in a 39 Contender to target wahoo and tuna. “It ain’t about the money. It’s about competition and winning, going against these guys. They’re nice enough to let us go out in our center console and win!”

“Tournaments make fishing more exciting,” adds Dee Dee Phillips, who has fished aboard Blanchita since this tournament started. “It’s great fun and the ECBC always has so much to offer. The weigh-ins, the crowds, it’s always fun.”