SANDESTIN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The 16th Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic was a record setting event.
Sunday's awards ceremony provided a chance to reflect on the weekend's competition, which brought 91 teams and 568 anglers to Baytowne Marina, an event record. More than $2 million in prize money was handed out, also a tournament record.
The E.C.B.C. champions pocket $131,040 along with one of the most unique stories in the history of the classic.
Captained by Bo Keough, "Can't Deny It" and Top Overall Angler Will Beard snagged a 699 lb. blue marlin. The team is comprised of high school graduates and college students, all childhood friends in Alabama. Given their status as students, they didn't have the money to enter any optional categories--categories they would have won.
As they head off to Ole Miss and Baylor in the fall, not having enough money will not be an issue! Terreson, Beard, Pete Vanlingen, Ritchie Prince, and Mac Waller leave Sandestin with a fat check and a memory that will last a long time.
"I mean, until we die," Beard said. "This is incredible. I might just have to stop off shore fishing, I kind of hit the peak there, but I love it so much. You don't know what it is until you experience it, it's crazy.
"I do 20 percent of the work, the boat is doing probably 40. We've got our wire man, that's an important job. Todd on the wire, that's a 128 pound kid. We're attaching him to a 700 lb. blue marlin. It's a lot to ask and he did a hell of a job."
Among the other notables honored Sunday, celebrity chef and local Emeril Lagasse brings back $154,000 thanks to tuna jackpots hauled in abord "Aldente" with captain Brad Benton.
"Reel Fire" claimed second place in the blue marlin division, taking home a check for approximately $308,000.
"Born2Run" touted the biggest prize haul, nearly $329,000 to show for their efforts in the catch and release division. So that team taking home that big check without even killing a single fish.
As for the success of this year's event, Tournament Director Adam Alfonso says it's all the result of a lot of work from a lot of people.
"Our entire staff pulls together to put this event on." Adam told us. "We work year 'round, as we constantly go over and let everyone know, it's a full team effort to put this event on. It's been a great accomplishment this year. Hitting a $2 million purse, a record number of boats, a record number of sponsors, record crowds. Just a great all around feeling for the entire resort, the event in general. And we're really looking forward to what we can accomplish next year."
And already Adam and his staff are looking ahead to next June!
"We still have some loose ends this week, making sure everybody gets paid, and all of our vendors are taken care of. And all of our accounting needs, but basically next week we start brainstorming on the 2019 event. We're going to get bigger and better each year. We always set our goal and we're going to accomplish it. And we're going to out-weight it. So next year, $2.5 million, 2019."