Two decades is a considerable stretch in the realm of big-game fishing. Tactics change and evolve, boats get sold, captains and mates move on. But some memories last forever. Several long-time ECBC participants shared their favorite moments over the years. Not surprisingly, many revolved around the weigh scales and hefty pelagic fish.
“My favorite memory was two years ago,” say Destin skipper Jeff Shoults on Mollie. “That was when we weighed the first place blue (660.4) and came in third in the catch and release. We took home $507,000 that year.” Shoults has fished every year of the ECBC.
“I’ve fished every year since 2012 and a few years before that. So I guess it’s 17 years now for me,” says Capt. Jason Buck. Buck was at the helm of Done Deal for most of that run. “2012 is my best memory, without a doubt,” he adds. “We knocked it out of the park that year. We killed the only blue at 783.6 pounds, had the heaviest dolphin at 42.3 and the third-place yellowfin at 68.2 pounds. There weren’t that many boats fishing due to the weather, so we ended up with half the purse.”
“I’ve been here all 20 years,” says Jeff Baggett of Gulf Coast Yacht Group. “The first year there were 38 boats and we won the top Catch & Release award on a 46 Bertram named Megan-O with three blue marlin releases. Those first few tournaments were wild and wooly. Some golf carts went off the dock back then.”
“I’ve fished the ECBC since 2006,” says Capt. Scooter Porto, formerly on Reel Addiction. “We won tag and release two times which was special. But in 2015, we won second place with a 551.0-pound blue and just beat Click Through by two pounds. That was a $180,000 fish. When our fish was going up the scales, everybody was watching and when the weight was announced, the crowd roared. That was cool.”
“I’ve been fishing this tournament for 15 years now,” Capt. Patrick Ivie on Breathe Easy recalled after a quick calculation. “The thing that sticks in my head was in 2016 after we caught a 835.8-pounder the first full morning and got beat.
“There’s not much about this event not to like, though,” Ivie adds. “The dock life is cool. There’s one way in and one way out and everybody gets to see everybody and shoot the bull. That’s always fun.”
Julia Brakhage, president of Tournament Control, has been with the ECBC since the inception. The records, registration and scoring expert can’t believe it’s been twenty years since the first event.
“The sponsors have always been awesome,” she recalls. “The first year they put up with pouring rain and they still came back. One of the things I always look forward to is coming here and seeing all the staff again. I’ve worked with many around the world over my career and it’s always nice to reconnect. But nothing really stands out in particular. It’s been 20 great years working with the teams and the tournament crew to put on this very special, world-class event. And I look forward to many more.”
Twenty years and counting. Time flies when you’re having fun…