Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic Winner Decided by 2 Pounds

Don't Blink boats 553-pound blue marlin to win annual tournament

Don't Blink wins Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic
The Don't Blink team won the 2017 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and took home the nice payout that came with the victory.Courtesy Allison Yii

The 2017 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic was decided by a pair of twos.

Two blue marlin caught, and they were separated by just two pounds.

The scales were in Don't Blink's favor this year.

Angler Mike Hickey, Capt. Skip McAllister, mates Sid Little, Wayne Riles and the crew of the 56-foot Viking boated a 553-pound blue marlin to claim first place at the prestigious tournament hosted along Florida's Panhandle and out in the Gulf of Mexico's rich blue marlin waters. The top wahoo award, plus the top blue marlin and jackpots, earned the Don't Blink team and owner Jason Benton, of Tallassee, Alabama, a $90,600 payout.

Team Supreme finishes second at Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic tournament
Team Supreme missed out on winning the tournament by 2 pounds but still had a successful weekend with a second-place finish.Courtesy Allison Yii

“We’ve fished this event since 2003 but this is our first weighed marlin,” Benton said after Monday’s awards brunch. “The ECBC is my favorite tournament — I rate it a 10. None of this was by coincidence. It all worked out and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Sixteen-year-old Alex Krake and the veteran crew aboard Team Supreme, a 76-foot Viking based in Destin and run by Capt. Chase Lake with mates James Arnold and Rodney Johnson, were the ones to come up just short. Krake whipped a 551-pound blue to earn his team second-place marlin honors, plus jackpot money for a consolation prize of $124,785. No other team boated a blue marlin.

553-pound blue marlin at Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Tournament
This 553-pound blue marlin was the winning fish at this year's tournament.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear

Geaux Deep and Capt. Joe "Fish" Hebert won the top crew and top release team recognition with five fish scoring 1,600 points. Geaux Deep angler JD Hebert was named the top release angler. The team's efforts earned a check for $37,905. Traders Hill, captained by Billy Blount, was second in the release division with 900 points, followed by Capt. Blake Applewhite's Liquid Apple with 600 points. Liquid Apple won $22,965 for a weekend's worth of fishing.

Caroline Robinson of Sea Mixer was the top lady angler trophy and Don't Blink will be representing the ECBC in the 2018 Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica.

The tournament included 36 teams. All of the catches was cleaned by Harbor Docks and donated to the non-profit Harvest House to help feed the Emerald Coast's less-fortunate families. Other charitable recipients of the ECBC include The Sandestin Foundation for Kids and The Billfish Foundation.

Don't Blink wins Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic
The crew of Don't Blink celebrate with their awards won at the tournament.Courtesy Allison Yii

“Wow, what an intense week,” says tournament director Adam Alfonso. “We dealt with our share of adversity due to the storm, but I’d like to thank all these dedicated teams for sticking with us and bringing in some exceptional fish. Thanks also to our loyal sponsors for ensuring such a world-class event and my team for pulling it all off. We’ll be primed to break more ECBC records next year and I’ve already ordered clear skies, calm seas and a couple grander marlin.”

Next year's tournament, the 16th-annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, is set for June 20-24, 2018, at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic
A crew member aboard Don't Blink waits on the boat at the docks.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic 2017
Everyone was having fun back at the docks in the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear
Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic
Alex Krake, the 16-year-old angler who caught the 551-pound, second-place blue marlin, watches the scales back at the docks.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear
preparing bait for tournament
This angler knows the importance of bait prep for a big-money tournament.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear
bait preparation for tournament
More bait preparation for those competing in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear
boats heading to Destin Pass
The boats idle out to the Destin Pass, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico, for the start of the tournament.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear
Born2Run at Gulf of Mexico
Born2Run coasts past Crab Island on its way to the mouth of the Gulf.Courtesy Capt. Dave Lear