Sandestin’s Baytowne Marina getting set to host 19th ECBC
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -This area is getting set to once again see some of the best sportfishing teams along the Gulf Coast converge on an area marina. Specifically, the Baytowne Marina at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in South Walton County. Wednesday marks the start of the 19th Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, an event that has survived oil spills and pandemics alike and has kept growing bigger and better since its beginnings in 2003!
“This fishing tournament is one of our premier events at Sandestin.” ECBC Tournament Director Jason Draughn told me. “Even during COVID we still did the fishing. We didn’t have the vendor set ups But we still had some crowds in support. We had great teams and it turned out to be a great tournament. You know the bite in the water is OK. I think with the storm moving in the Gulf this weekend is going to stir the waters up and I think it’s just going to make it a better tournament.”
79 teams fished last year, with $1.7 million handed out. Angler Wes Oliver, Captain Jeff Shoults, and the crew of Destin based “Mollie” winning more than half a million with a 660 pound blue. 80 boats signed up so far, that number could climb and the purse could get close to or even exceed two million bucks.
This time around the teams will encounter a bit of a different system of weighing their fish in. At least the teams fishing on the larger boats in the fleet will. Sandestin added 80 slips to the Baytowne Marina, and some of those new slips will prevent the bigger boats from backing down close to the weigh-in area and unloading their catch there. Instead the plan has them heading back to the slips, with the Tournament crew coming and offloading the fish and taking them to the scale and stage for the crowd to see.
“You know this is a bit of a transition year for the tournament.” says Jonathan Boone, the ECBC’s weigh-in coordinator. “But I think how we have it set up right now, I think in the long run it is going to be beneficial for our captains and our crews and our guests. Kind of one of the big things that I’ve been focusing on is coordinating the weigh-ins. Getting those fish from the boats obviously to the weigh-in station at an appropriate time. And we’ll have our captain and our crew come up with the fish. So it’s going to be a lot of coordinating. But we have a great team and we’re really looking forward to just a new aspect of the ECBC this year and I think it’s really going to work out for the better.”
The event starts with a Kickoff party Wednesday night. The fleet departs midday Thursday. The weigh-ins run Friday 4-9 p.m. and Saturday from 4 to 10.
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