Out of 91 boats competing for more than $2 million in cash awards, the Destin-based vessels got their share of the pot placing in each division in the 16th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytowne Marina Saturday.
In the three days of fishing 48 billfish were caught, including 35 blue marlin, 12 white marlin and one sailfish. Only five blue marlin were brought to the scales, the rest of the billfish were tagged and released for points. There were also 54 game fish: 22 dolphin, 20 yellowfin tuna, one bigeye tuna and 11 wahoo.
The big marlin of the day was also the first fish of the day, a 699.2 pound blue marlin caught by Will Beard on the Can’t Deny It.
The second marlin to hit the docks was a 518-pounder caught by Rick Olsen on the Breathe Easy for second place.
However, the first Destin boat to get on the board in a big way was the Aldente with Capt. Brad Benton. Celebrity chef and Blue Marlin Classic regular Emeril Lagasse weighed in his first blue marlin on Saturday. Lagasse weighed in a 475.7-pound marlin that measured 108 inches. He said it took about 2 hours and 40 minutes to land the marlin. The marlin held third place on the board for a little while.
Nick Diblasio, also on the Aldente, weighed in a big 168.6-pound yellowfin tuna that finished up in second place.
The Aldente also placed second in the Top Crew division with four fish worth 1,644.3 points. When it was all said and done, the Aldente crew took home $154,047 in cash awards.
Capt. John Holley, who was also aboard the Aldente, said they hooked a blue marlin on Saturday morning that was about 1-2 feet longer than the marlin they already had on the boat. But they already had a marlin on board, so they released it for another day or angler.
The Blanchita with Capt. Bobby Atwell at the helm, also out of Destin, came in with a 167.6-pound yellowfin tuna caught by Miller Phillips, which got on the board for a bit but was later knocked down to fourth place at the end of the night. They still managed to win $53,943.75.
Minutes later, Destin’s You Never Know with Capt. Joey Birbeck backed in with the fourth blue marlin of the day. Sydney Turner-Bankston weighed in a 640.8 pounder that finished in third place. You Never Know also released two marlin to finish second in the Catch and Release Division. They also placed third in the Top Crew category with three fish.
You Never Know crew took home $264,407.25.
About 7:30 p.m., the Soggy Dollar of Destin with Capt. B.J. Teems at the helm came in with a winning dolphin. Chad Wandrick pulled in a 39.1-pounder for third place on the board.
Capt. Teems said they caught the dolphin on a weedline.
“That’s the most grass I’ve seen in a while,” Teems said of the good conditions.
They weighed in a total of three dolphin and a wahoo.
“We saw a blue right beside the boat, but it wouldn’t eat,” Teems said.
The Soggy Dollar finished up with $18,668 in cash awards.
The last Destin boat to finish in the top three of one of the divisions was the Backdown 2 with Capt. Phillip Blackburn and Capt. Gary Jarvis. Jarvis, who actually sold the boat to Blackburn on Thursday and was serving as a second captain aboard as well as a deckhand.
The Backdown 2 weighed in a 60.1-pound wahoo, caught by Tom Horstman, for a second place finish.
For the tournament, Backdown 2 came away with $79,887 in cash awards.
The last blue marlin of the evening came in about 8:30 p.m. aboard the Reel Fire. It was a 665.2 pounder caught by Connor Ferrara for a second place finish.
The top yellowfin tuna of the evening came in just before 10 p.m. aboard the Done Deal, 190.2 pounder caught by Katie Gonsoulin.