Although Alabama angler Scott Cooper weighed in the only blue marlin, a 613.4-pounder caught on the CE, the battle for top tuna went down to the wire with a few of Destin's finest getting in the hunt at the 11th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort Saturday evening.
Seventy boats with 449 anglers left port Thursday afternoon in hopes of bringing back some whoppers to topple the scales and take home their piece of the million dollar-plus purse.
The blue marlin earned the team aboard the CE $283,800, according the ECBC website.
Only one fish was weighed Friday night, a 35-pound dolphin, but Saturday saw 38 boats weigh in a total of 168 fish with the last fish going on the scale at 11:52 p.m.
A little after 9 p.m., Mark Knowles wowed the crowd with a 99.7-pound yellowfin tuna he caught on the Blue Heron. His catch lasted atop the leaderboard a little more than hour.
After weighing in a pair of dolphin, a 25.8-pounder and a 32.6-pounder, the Trust Fun with local Capt. Jason Woodham at the helm pulled out a yellowfin tuna that tilted the scales at 144.4-pounds. John Guarisco of South Carolina was the angler on the rod that hauled in the tuna.
Destin's Capt. Casey Jones, who was also on the Trust Fun, said the tuna were everywhere.
"The tunas were as thick as thieves," Jones said.
When it was all said and done Saturday night, 33 yellowfin tuna had been weighed at the scales.
Minutes later, Destin's Capt. Jason Hallmark and his crew aboard the Vengeance backed in with a tuna of their own. Ryan Wilson weighed in a yellowfin that took second place at 102-pounds.
And before the Vengeance could pull out of the slip, Ms Castle with Capt. Mark Hanshaw, of Destin, had a tuna that looked like it might hold. Spike Lord of Fort Walton Beach weighed in a 163.7-pounder.
Before the Ms Castle pulled away from the scales, one of its anglers, Brian Beason got down on one knee with ring in hand proposed marriage to Hannah Hester, right in front of the tuna.
"I was very surprised," said Hannah. The two are from Orange Beach and have been dating for two-and-a-half years.
Last year's big winner, Travis Dorland, who landed a 783.6-pound blue marlin on the Done Deal, pulled in a 70.1-pound tuna this time around.
Next up was the Destin-based boat You Never Know with Capt. Joey Birbeck that pulled in at 11:03 p.m. They weighed a couple of dolphin, then two tuna before they stepped into third place on the board with a 104.2-pounder caught by Thomas Tuner. The You Never Know team finished up with $63,135 in prize money, according to the ECBC website.
About 15 minutes later, all the guys were knocked down a notch in the tuna division when the Reel Fire of Fourchon, La., pulled in with a 164.1-pounder caught by Kate Ferrara. Ferrara, who only weighs 106 pounds, said it took her an hour and 3 minutes to reel in the tuna that had a good 55 pounds on her. Her fish was worth, $96,073.
The Ms Castle finished up in second and went home with $27,980, according to the ECBC website, and the Trust Fun won $7,253 for their tuna.
The last four boats weighed in a couple of tuna more than 100 pounds, but nothing to erase Ferrara's catch.
Other Destin captains or boats that did well in the tournament include:
•Lucky 2 with Destin's Capt. Tommy Green at the helm came in at 11:30 p.m. with a 48.9-pound wahoo for third place, worth $18,300.
•The Islander, based out of Destin, brought in the first fish of the tourney, a 35-pound dolphin.
•Will Wilson got on the board with a 38.1-pound dolphin at 6:45 p.m. that he caught with Destin's Capt. Harold Staples on the Wynsong. "It was slick calm out," Capt. Staples said. The Wynsong team took home $23,355 with dolphin and wahoo jackpot entries.
•The Blanchita of Destin came in with a 40.6-pound dolphin caught by Larry Fox. Destin's Allen Phillips also pulled in a 31.2-pound dolphin.
•Right behind the Blanchita came the Sea Wolff of Destin with a 41-pound dolphin, worth $51,229.
•A Reel Dive, based in Destin, weighed in a 76.7-pound tuna at 8:30 p.m.
•Legal Dose III with Destin's Capt. Andy Lindsey backed in with a 34-pound dolphin and 33.5-pound wahoo.
•The DeDe V based in Destin weighed in a couple of dophin and three tuna for points.
•Committeed, a Destin boat, weighed in dolphin, wahoo and tuna plus had tag and release entries. They finished third in the release division and took home$114,570.
•Bella Maria, Destin based, weighed in dolphin and wahoo.
•The Sea You of Destin brought in a 26.6-pound wahoo and a 24.5-pound dolphin.
2013 ECBC BY THE NUMBERS
Team count - 70
Anglers - 449
Billfish - 32
Blue marlin - 9 (one landed - 8 released)
White marlin - 16 (released)
Sailfish - 7 (released)
Dolphin - 56
Wahoo - 28
Yellowfin Tuna - 33
Jackpot for winning blue marlin - $283,800