The weigh scales for the ECBC are located at the Baytowne Marina, which is at the head of Horseshoe Bayou off Choctawhatchee Bay. But the waterway turned out to be the blues bayou Saturday, especially for one team in particular. Liquid Apple, a 68 Viking owned by Gary Applewhite and run by Capt. Ron Woodruff, Jr., didn’t have a fish that got away story. They actually boated their marlin. Only it didn’t count. And it would have been the biggest marlin in the 2020 tournament had it not been disqualified. Blake Applewhite was the unfortunate angler.
“We hooked the fish and fought it for 4.5 hours,” Applewhite explained. “It eventually got tail-wrapped and died. I tried my best to get it in on the rod and reel. But in the end, we decided to hand-line it to the boat. It was not an easy decision. So we wanted to do the right thing and disqualify ourselves and come in and tell the story.”
Liquid Apple’s fish measured 121.5 inches long with a girth of 66 inches. The courtesy weigh recorded 668.8 pounds, which would have topped the leaderboard had it been caught on the allowable tackle.
Mollie opened the scales Saturday with its entry that was boated at 10:30 Friday morning after a fight lasting 2.5 hours. Wes Long of Guntersville, Alabama was on the 130-class combo. Mollie’s blue was caught on a live tuna near the ELF rig. It tipped the scales at 660.4 pounds to earn first place in the blue marlin weight division.
“We were out there all by ourselves,” explained Mollie’s captain, Jeff Shoults. The 66-foot G&S custom sport-fisher is based in Destin and always seems to be in contention in Gulf tournaments.
“It was absolutely gorgeous out there, slick calm, perfect conditions. My crew did a fantastic job. Chance Young was on the wire and Sawyer Henderson and Josh Goodson were manning the gaffs. Without those guys, this doesn’t work.” Shoults and Mollie have won all the major Gulf events with the exception of the ECBC before now.
“It’s a relief when you get it in the boat,” he added. “It sure makes the ride back to Destin a whole lot easier.”
Three other blue marlin were weighed on Saturday besides Mollie’s and Liquid Apple’s courtesy check. Mike Morette of Pensacola wound in the second biggest blue, a 601.4-pound fish aboard Panhandler. The 54 Hatteras is based in Pensacola and is owned by Tim O’Brien. Capt. Travis Gill is the boat’s skipper.
Owner/angler Scott Cooper christened his new CE, an 80-foot Viking, with a blue marlin that weighed in at 512.4 pounds.
“It was a pretty emotional catch,” Cooper explained after weigh master Jack Teschel recorded the fish. “I had my dad and two boys aboard and this was our first marlin on the new boat. We just took delivery a couple days ago.”
Southern Charm, a 63 Hatteras that calls Orange Beach home, brought in the last marlin of the night. That fish just made the minimum length requirement at 110 inches and was wound in by lady angler MacKenzie Davis. It weighed 437.7 pounds.
The 2020 ECBC set a new tournament record with eight blue marlin weighed (including Liquid Apple’s). In the 2019 tournament, only one qualifier made it to the scales to sweep all division levels.
In typical fashion, the game fish division leads swapped hands all night long. Austin Scully established an early benchmark in the tuna category with a 198.8-pound yellowfin boated aboard Ridgeback, a 37 Bertram from Pensacola.
Houston Adams, competing on Gunnslinger, a 52 Southern Cross that calls Destin home, topped the wahoo division with a 58.6-pound striped speedster. Owner Joseph Geil and his crew aboard Lisa Jo took top dolphin honors with a 39.4-pound bull.
The catch and release numbers weren’t quite as impressive as last weekend’s 101 tally in the Biloxi tournament, but it still represented a quality bite. In the end Fleur de Lis was first with four blues to its credit. Mon Chari, a 68 American Custom Yacht, was second with 1,700 points, followed by Mollie with three fish based on time of release.