As registration winds down for the 18th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, most crews are retiring to the salons of their respective sport-fishers to pour over charts and plot strategy. Deciding exactly where to fish is a tricky proposition. Focus on one rip, rig or color change and it could mean a bonanza. Or be off by as little as a few miles and face long, boring hours staring at barren water. With more than $1 million in prize money on the line, it’s a very calculated risk.

The epic bite during last weekend’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic (101 billfish released, 10 blues released by Born2Run) has every ECBC team praying for a repeat performance. According to Hilton’s Realtime Navigator, a popular offshore forecasting service, the main oceanic features were still present mid-week. Weather patterns were stable, so that isn’t likely to change. Altimetry charts show a huge unfavorable downwelling east of Appomattox, but good nutrient-rich water south of Who Dat and west of Thunderhorse. That’s the same basic area that produced earlier.

“I think that storm [Tropical Storm Cristobal] really helped us out,” says Capt. Jeremy Cox, skipper of Lolita, a 68 Hatteras that won third place in the MGCBC with a 508.2 blue marlin. “It moved the bait around and brought the big fish in. The bait was pushed away from the rigs, the tuna followed and that made it easier for the marlin. All those rigs on the east side are usually good, although this week is supposed to be calmer and hotter. But that current is still pushing straight north, s