Angler Christian Fast, Capt. Jason Buck and the team aboard A Work of Art won the 20th anniversary Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic after weighing the largest blue marlin at 638.7 pounds. The team also released three blues. With tournament awards and optional entries, that effort was worth $545,681. Art Favre owns the 92 Viking based in Orange Beach, Alabama. The 84 teams competing in this year’s Classic were angling for $1.987 million in overall prize money.
“I’ve fished the ECBC since the beginning,” Favre said. “We were fortunate to win the top Catch and Release one time, but this is our first in the kill division. So this is a sweet win after all those years, to get in the top slot in this tournament. I’m honored and humbled by it.”
Quantified, a 64 Spencer run by Capt. Justin Drummond, earned the next biggest payout without boating a fish. The Texas team set an ECBC record by releasing 12 billfish. The tally included two blues, seven whites and three sailfish. That impressive feat earned $245,505 in the Top Team Release and Crew awards, plus the optional release jackpots.
“I give all the credit to my team,” Drummond said after Sunday’s awards brunch. “I’m just the bus driver. We’re definitely going against the grain with our style of fishing, but it works for us. This year we’ve gotten lucky. Lucky means opportunity and execution, though.”
Benedetta, a 70 Viking with Capt. Curt Gwin on the flying bridge, brought in the second-place marlin at 547.9 pounds. Kirk Aronson was the angler and that fish was worth $85,626.
Nimrod Frazier, Capt. Hunter Forbes and the team on Raise ‘Em Up, a 56 Sunny Briggs, weighed the third-place blue at 513.3 pounds. With optional entries, that catch paid off $156,339.
Sea Wolff (Capt. Jared Quick/angler Troy Layton) earned $30,375 for a 503.7-pound blue marlin. Briar Patch also pocketed $27,000 for a 469.3-pound blue (Capt. Nick Hunter/angler Mary Katherine Adams). Up to It, a 52 Viking based in Destin, weighed a 457.4-pound blue that didn’t make the leaderboard. Capt. Rodney Johnson was running the boat and Damien Bond was in the chair for that catch. The team did win $28,440 in optional dolphin jackpot money (33.2 pounds/angler Chase Bond).
Rising Son’s, a 58 Viking (Capt. Cricket Crochet) earned second-place release team honors with three blue marlin. Jaselyn Berthelot was the angler for all three fish, earning the Top Release and Top Lady Angler trophies. The team won $54,825 for the tournament.
C-Ya, a 74 Spencer (Capt. Devin Potts), released four billfish to win third-place in the Release Team and Crew divisions. That effort was worth a check for $101,443.
Salt Shaker, with Capt. Dennis Bennett at the wheel, took two first-place categories to earn $168,307. Chris Hatcher whipped the top tuna at 192.4 pounds, while Jeff Singleton wound in the fattest wahoo weighing 64.7 pounds. Salt Shaker is a 58 Viking.
Reel Fire (76 Viking), with Kate Dorland in the chair and Capt. Scooter Porto at the helm, weighed the second-place yellowfin at 170.8 pounds. That fish paid out $58,653 in tournament and optional entry money. Perra Mala, a 57 Spencer run by Capt. Brian Bramlett, brought in the third-place yellowfin at 149.4 pounds. Richard Rucker was the angler on that fish, worth $23,779. The other boats winning money in optional tuna jackpots include Liquid Apple, Don’t Blink and Linda Lucille.
Change Order, a 46 Hatteras skippered by Capt. Max Smith, brought in a 54.7-pound wahoo (angler Michael Savage) and a 36.2-pounder (angler Thomas Anderson), good for second and third places, respectively. With jackpot money, those two speed demons paid off $72,206. Renegade and Never Settle also earned wahoo payouts, while Get Reel and Squid Row won money in both dolphin and wahoo categories.
Smith Reaves caught the largest dolphin in the tournament, a 38.9-pound fish. Capt. Jordan Whiteman runs Soul Candy, a 61 F&S. The payout was $26,880. Evil Eyes (Capt. Kelly Graham/64 Viking) won $60,138 in tournament and optional entries after Wally Gentry boated the second-place dolphin at 37.6 pounds. Daniel Guilbeau and his team aboard Reel Wicked, a 73 Donzi (Capt. Steve Pixley) took third-place with a 36.1-pound dolphin. With optionals, that fish paid out $70,939. Panhandler also won dolphin jackpot money.
In addition to Berthelot and Fast as the top anglers, Tate Yancey was named the top Junior Angler/Billfish, on Miss Ma’am, a 60 Hatteras (Capt. Chase Johnson). Jack Murdica was the top Junior Angler/Gamefish, competing on Never Settle (Capt. Stan Blackman).
The fleet caught 43 blue marlin (37 releases/6 boated), 17 white marlin and eight sailfish. The gamefish tally (tuna, dolphin and wahoo) totaled 3,618.2 pounds of weighed fish.
“I’d like to thank all the teams for helping us celebrate our 20th anniversary and our wonderful sponsors and hard-working staff for making it possible,” said Tournament Director Jason Draughn. “We look forward to seeing everyone again June 21-25, 2023, to kick off the next decade of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic.”