SANDESTIN — Will anyone top Cotton Patch’s 899.6 pound marlin delivered to the Baytowne Marina weight scales in 2015?
That’s the biggest headline revolving around the 20th Annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, which sets sail Thursday and runs through Saturday with the star attraction coming at the weight scales inside of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
Those scales will be active Friday and Saturday evening from 4-8 pm, where everything from blue and white marlin, sailfish, spearfish, dolphin, wahoo and blackfin, yellowfin and bigeye tuna will be weighed. Entrance is free with vendors, live music, food and drinks and fireworks accenting the tournament.
As of Wednesday, 86 boats were registered and could climb higher to push the prize money above $2 million for an event that attracts multimillion dollar boats from across the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast competing in the third leg of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship Series.
The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship Series consists of the top four most competitive and prestigious billfish tournaments in the Gulf of Mexico. The lineup features the Orange Beach Billfish Classic in the kickoff spot, followed by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic in Biloxi. After Sandestin for the ECBC, the Series then comes full circle for the Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf at The Wharf Entertainment Complex in Orange Beach, Alabama.
In addition to the blue marlin weight division, smaller blues, white marlin, sailfish and spearfish that are successfully released earn points in the competitive release division. Yellowfin, bigeye and blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin are scored one point per pound.
Last year’s prize package totaled 1,976,257.76 with a 681-pound marlin landing first. With this year’s fishing conditions setting up perfectly, those totals could be blown out of the water.
Come the weekend, word will spread of blue marlin catches and The Village of Baytowne Wharf will be a sight to behold. Another sight to behold will be from the Destin Pass Bridge on Thursday when boats leave the marina around 11 am and speed into open waters.
Fireworks will conclude Friday and Saturday night awards at 9 pm, and the presentation will take place Sunday at 11 am at the Baytowne Conference Center.
Follow sports editor Seth Stringer on twitter at @SethSnwfdn.