With some of the best teams in sport-fishing vying for $1.747 million in cash prizes, the 2020 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic was destined to feature stiff competition. And it did. By the time the last boats had weighed in, however, it came down to a truism in sports—the home team always has a slight advantage. So after winning all the other major tournaments in the Gulf, it was Mollie, a Destin-based G&S custom sport-fisher, that claimed the top prize.
Angler Wes Long, Capt. Jeff Shoults, mates Chance Young, Sawyer Henderson, Josh Goodson and the rest of the team won first place blue marlin with a 660.4-pound fish, and third place in the release division (3 blues). With tournament and crew payouts, plus multiple optional jackpots, Team Mollie earned $514,933 and the 2020 ECBC trophy for top boat.
“We are very fortunate to do something we love for a living,” Capt. Jeff Shoults said afterwards. “The good Lord blessed me and my crew and allowed us to catch these fish. We had an outstanding trip. Four out of the five anglers aboard caught blue marlin and to win our hometown tournament is pretty awesome.”
Panhandler, a 54 Hatteras owned by Tim O’Brien and run by Capt. Travis Gill, was the second-place team with a blue that weighed 601 pounds. With optionals, that fish was worth $182,274 for the Pensacola team.
Charles “Charlie” Thomas III and his crew aboard Fins Up, a 54 Bertram based in Orange Beach, earned third-place honors with a 553.3-pound marlin that was weighed in Friday night. Capt. JJ English and the team earned $57,282 for their efforts.
Fleur de Lis, a 72 Viking with Capt. Scooter Porto at the helm, was the top team in the billfish release division. Based in Grand Isle, the team released four blue marlin to claim top prize and $159,415. Mon Chari, (Capt. Matt Coppoletta) came in second in the division with 1,700 points to earn $43,800, and Mollie was third with three free-swimming blues to its credit.
Some hefty tuna were brought to the Baytowne Marina scales on Saturday evening. Austin Sculley on Ridgeback, (37 Bertram/Capt. Wild Man Waldmann), hoisted the heaviest yellowfin at 198.8 pounds to claim $56,600. Chasin’ Tail, (80 Weaver Boat Works/Capt. Clayt James), boated a 153.9-pound tuna, good for a $28,218 payout. John Engquist was the angler. Rounding out the division was angler Craig Brown, competing aboard Second Wind, (72 F&S/Capt. Marlin Brown). Brown’s 148.5-pound entry won the team $17,942.
Houston Adams, fishing on his family’s 52-foot Southern Cross, Gunnslinger, wound in the heaviest wahoo of the tournament. It was 58.6 pounds and was worth $49,805. Capt. BJ Teems is Gunnslinger’s helmsman. Ritchie Prince wound in the second-place wahoo at 51.7 pounds. That fish earned Can’t Deny It (48 Viking), Capt. Jeff Bryars and the team a $15,168 bonus. Questionable Judgement, a 39 Nor-Tech center console run