Anglers proved this past weekend that it’s not always quantity that wins out, but quality.
With the smallest field ever — 38 boats — in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic’s 10 years of existence, the 219 registered anglers pulled in some of the biggest fish ever.
The crews, of at least 35 of the boats, braved the 7-to 9-foot seas for a share in the $575,550 purse.
On Friday night, Rod Morris hauled in a 91-pound wahoo aboard the Summertime II to start things off with a bang at the Baytowne Marina at Sandestin. It wasn’t an ECBC record, but it was one of the biggest since the 95.3-pounder brought to the scales in 2005 aboard the Blue Heron.
CATCHES BY THE NUMBERS:
Billfish count – 28
Blue marlin count – 8
White marlin count – 16
Sailfish count – 4
Dolphin count – 27
Wahoo count – 33
Yellowfin tuna count - 16
When the scales opened at 4 p.m. Saturday, anticipation was building and everyone was waiting to catch a glimpse of the big blue.
In the meantime, the Inlet Magic came in with a dolphin and Daniel Spiva on the Another Well Done weighed in a 22-pound wahoo. Up next came the Main Event with a 39.6-pound wahoo that took second place, at least for a little while.
About 45 minutes later, word came that the Done Deal would be at the docks in about 35 minutes.
By 6 p.m. when the Done Deal backed in at marina, the crowd had grown and was ready with cameras and phones in hand to capture photos of the mega marlin.
It was quite a sight to see how they got the blue marlin off the boat and to the scales. The dock hands, called “dock monkeys” by the announcer, attached ropes to the massive fish, pulled it off the back of the boat and then floated it up to the scales. Once it made it to the dock, they had to pull it up to the deck. That was quite the task with more than a dozen deckhands struggling to hoist her up, but they finally did.
As the blue was lifted up on the scales, the crowd went wild. And then WJHG sportscaster Scott Rossman, who was emcee for the event, called out the weight — “783.6 pounds.”
The team aboard the Done Deal, who were gathered around, began to celebrate.
“I was calling it 725,” said Travis Dorland, who was the angler who landed the huge marlin. “You always guess low, but I knew it was a good fish.”
Dorland said it took about an hour to boat the big blue.
“He did good for us … it stayed on top” most of the time, he said. And the third time they got it to the leader, “we were able to get three gaffs in it.”
Reeling from the excitement, Dorland said, “We knew what we had on the bite. And it was all mechanics” when it came to reeling it in. “It was like riding a bike.”
But before the blue marlin went on the scales, other anglers on the Done Deal weighed in fish. Lance Hightower weighed in a 42.3-pound dolphin that took first place on the leaderboard.
“We were live baiting and it came up in the spread,” said Hightower. “And we were able to capitilize on it.”
Roy Wilks Hammock weighed in a 68.2-pound yellowfin tuna that got on the board for a little while.
After the blue marlin was taken down, the Reel Worthless was waiting patiently for their turn to weigh in. They had a tuna, a couple of wahoo, and then they pulled in a whopper of a wahoo. Johnny Johnson weighed in a 79.1-pounder, that actually measured an inch longer than the 91-pounder on Friday night.
At 7:10, there were eight boats stacked up waiting to weigh fish.
The Catchin Up weighed in seven fish, the Fish Tales weighed in a wahoo, then came Testing the Water. The crew aboard this boat pulled out four fish before hauling out the top tuna.
Jake Breaux was the angler that hauled in the 190.1-pound yellowfin tuna that measured 67 inches long and set a new ECBC record. The previous record was a 179-pounder caught in 2007 on the Up To It.
Five more boats weighed in and then came the Lucky 2 with Capt. Tommy Green at the helm. Lynn Layton pulled in an 88.5-pound wahoo for a second place finish.
Then another five boats weighed in fish before the Mjoliner weighed in a 125.7-pound yellowfin tuna for a second place spot on the board.
The last boat of the evening to weigh fish was the Donny D III that weighed in a wahoo at 10:20 p.m.
When it was all said and done, 76 fish had been weighed and two records had fallen.
Not bad for a group of 38 boats.