Across much of the South, Friday night lights symbolizes high school football and cherished rivalries. But in Florida in the heat of the summer, fishing is the premier sport and the spotlight doesn’t shine any brighter than the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. That’s where the 18th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is going on and several contestants have already gotten on the scoreboard in a big way. The 79 boats competing are angling for more than $1.7 million in cash prizes.

First to back down in the slip was Pullin’ Wire, a 61 Buddy Davis based in Panama City and owned by Bryan Andrews. Marina Adams, a 16-year-old high school student from Tallahassee, was next up in the fighting chair rotation when the marlin pounced on a trolled MoldCraft black and orange Wide Range lure. The fight took four hours on a Shimano 130 Tiagra combo, but when it was over, Adams had caught her first blue ever and the boat had boated its first blue in a tournament.

“It was a bit exhausting,” Adams told ECBC emcee Scott Rossman after the weight of 505 pounds was announced. “I saw it jumping and I had so much adrenalin going I didn’t get tired.”

“We’ve been doing this for a long time and this is the first blue we’ve hung,” said a proud father, Bill Adams, afterwards. “We