Rusty Skalla has a lot to smile about these days, thanks to his team’s big win in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Skalla’s Rise Up, a 54-foot Viking based in Destin, Florida, was on the bite during the tournament weekend, finding hot fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Angler Scott Poppell boated the 838.2-pound blue marlin to win big fish honors for the team, and they released two more to place second in the tournament’s release division. They won a total of $431, 835 for the victory, from the tournament’s record $1.95 million total cash purse.
“This was a huge win, especially for a hometown team. It’s always been a dream to win this tournament and now we’ve finally done it,” Skalla explained.
But the event was far from a runaway. In a very close second was the season’s hottest team, Breathe Easy, with an 835.8-pound blue marlin. The 2.4-pound difference meant Breathe Easy would settle for second place worth $257,400.
The Kraken team placed third with a 652.2-pound blue marlin landed on 30-pound line from their 33 Conch center console. That feat earned the team third-place honors and $40,800. Done Deal boated a 409-pound blue marlin and won over $133,700 in optional jackpot cash, while Born2Run was the top release team with four blue marlin. The Marlin Darlin team set the tournament record for yellowfin tuna with their 190.6-pounder, and Lucky 2 set a new mark for wahoo at 112.2 pounds. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and his Aldente team scaled the tournament’s biggest mahimahi, a 36.6-pound bull that was worth $125,266.