Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic contenders gear up for Thursday start
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -The 19th Emerald Coast Blue marlin classic is officially underway. Just under 90 big-time sport fishing teams are at the Baytown marina getting set to compete for a prize purse that will approach $2 million.
The crews spent a good chunk of the day, Wednesday, getting set to hit the Gulf of Mexico Thursday. That means fueling up and getting all the groceries and ice necessary for two days of big time sportfishing, and of course checking all the gear required.
““We’ve got about 86 both signed up right now,” said tournament coordinator, Jonathan Boone. “We’re looking to get a few more. I think we have 19 boats coming in today, so we’re filling up the marina. Everything’s going good. We’ve got our ice trucks here, we’ve already got a few ice bags out, and we’re real excited to get the tournament going on Thursday.”
Among the veteran participants in the ECBC is Joey Birbeck, the captain of “You Never Know.” This time around, he’s participating in a different capacity. The angler on his boat is pregnant, so Joey will be a mate on “C student.”
“I wouldn’t miss it. I don’t think my wife would handle me at home while everyone is out fishing! The family so the family has invited me to go fishing with them,” said Birbeck. “We have my golf cart, my slip, and I’m hoping that we have some luck and we can bring home a big one.”
Wednesday night, the captains meeting and kick off party took place at Sandestin. It was a nice celebratory mood as members of the teams mingled with each other and their families.
Earlier in the day, the crews loaded up the boats with fuel, ice, groceries, and checked all the equipment, in anticipation of fighting big blue.
There’s a new aspect in all of this in terms of technology, the teams installing sonars under the boat to help them find the big fish.
“It takes some of the guesswork out of it,” said the captain of “Bandito,” Chad Solomon. “It’s not a silver bullet, but it helps you to know when to leave and went to stay. It’s like an underwater radar basically. Some of the guys are a lot better at it than I am. Some of the guys can go as far as telling you what type of species of fish it is, how big they are, and that sort of thing. You know you can look out, I think it goes out to 4800 feet. Most guys are using it within 2000, 360° around the boat.”
These teams will hit the Gulf of Mexico around mid day Thursday, the way it is set for Friday and Saturday nights.
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