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.
“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.
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.
“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.