And in the end, there was just one.
Even though more than two dozen marlin were released (and a couple more lost at the boat), only one was weighed during the 17th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Owner/angler Nick Pratt and his team aboard It Just Takes Time, swept the blue marlin division as a result after weighing a 574-pounder on Saturday night. Nearly a third of the 80-boat fleet still backed up to the weigh scales at the Baytowne Marina to record game fish catches, however.
If there was a universal theme this weekend, it was rough conditions to start and cooperative seas by Saturday and Sunday. Many boats reported floating grass, which makes it difficult to keep lures and trolled baits from fouling. Because of big seas Thursday, boats were allowed to leave early Friday morning and fish through Sunday afternoon.
“It was very rough, as rough as could be with waves breaking over the entire boat after we cleared the pass,” said Robert Wilkinson on Sweet Liberty, a Pascagoula, Mississippi-based sport-fisher. “But it got a lot better coming back in.” Sweet Liberty was an early leader in the dolphin division after the scales opened at 2 pm.
Capt. Johnny Dorland, skipper of Cotton Patch based in Orange Beach, Alabama, said they fished north of Lloyd’s Ridge and found a lot of floating grass.
“There was bait everywhere. Hardtails, all the little dolphin you could catch, small wahoo,” he said. “We even saw some bluefin tuna jumping but we stayed away from them.” Bluefins are not an eligible species in the ECBC and hooking one usually entails a protracted fight. Dorland said the blue water color change was 120 miles from Destin and water temperatures were in the lower 80s.
Triple Threat, with angler Jeff Culton in the chair, jumped to the top of the tuna standings with a hefty yellowfin weighed in late Sunday afternoon. That fish tipped the scales at 167.5 pounds and was caught on a live blackfin tuna.
“We caught that fish the first afternoon after about a 15 minute fight,” Culton explained. “We were out around the Independence Hub. It was a little rough at first, but it got better as the weekend went along.”
Numerous dolphin were caught during this year’s event. The standings flip flopped all afternoon and evening as more boats backed to the scales. Only a handful of wahoo were weighed.
Due to the delayed start, the awards were handed out Sunday evening. Cash prizes totaling more than $1.86 million would be split amongst the fleet. But with It Just Takes Time holding the winning hand, the pot would end up being a little lopsided.