TEENS TOP EMERALD COAST BLUE MARLIN CLASSIC
The event’s first boated marlin hangs on for the win
After graduation from high school, five friends — Will Beard, Ritchie Prince, Todd Terreson, Pete VanLingen and Mac Waller — decided to fish the highly competitive Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin. Boat owner Doug Terreson said he would provide the vessel, his 48-foot Viking named Can’t Deny
It, but the teens would have to come up with the $6,000 base entry fee, which they barely scraped together. Terreson knew the boys were up against 91 of the best crews in the Gulf of Mexico, but he and Capt. Bo Keough vowed to let them do all the work.
The Can’t Deny It team was trolling a weed line 120 miles south of Destin, Florida, when a massive blue marlin attacked a chugger on a 50-wide. One hour and 45 minutes later, Beard emerged from the fighting chair as his
buddies boated the only lure-caught qualifying blue of the tournament. Since
Can’t Deny It was too far offshore to make the scales before the 8 p.m. deadline, the team opted to stay at sea and fish until the scales opened the following day.
After an obligatory first-billfish dip for Beard, weighmaster Jack Teschel uttered the words that will remain as clear in the minds of those young men as the day they were uttered: “699.2 pounds.” In overjoyed excitement, the team enveloped Beard, realizing that sometimes dreams really do come true.
“I asked if they realized they had just gone up against the best teams in the Gulf and won, and they all looked at me with wide-open eyes,” Keough says. “The boys did it all from the cockpit. It really was something to see.”
Placing second was Reel Fire, a 70-foot Viking captained by Chris Blanchet, with a 665.2-pound blue marlin landed by Connor Ferrara. Reel Fire won $308,124 for their fish. Sydney Turner-Bankston caught the third-place blue marlin, a 640.8-pounder, on You Never Know! with Capt. Joey Birbeck at the helm. The You
Never Know! team earned a payout of $264,407 for that fish and two additional blue marlin releases, good enough for second-place release honors. TurnerBankston was named the top lady angler.
Stealing the show in the release division was Born2Run, a 72-foot Viking owned by Dana Foster. The team won top release honors and earned a check totaling $328,885. This is the largest payout for the release division in a Gulf of Mexico billfish tournament. Capt. Myles Colley and the veteran team released four blue marlin to earn the unprecedented record payday.
Past ECBC champions aboard Done
Deal, a 70-foot Viking owned by Jon Gonsoulin and run by Capt. Jason Buck, narrowly missed setting a new tournament record in the tuna category. Katie Gonsoulin bested a 190.2-pound yellowfin, off the all-time ECBC mark by less than half a pound. She also released two blue marlin, good for third place in the release division, for a combined overall payout of $131,703.
This year’s Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin hosted a field of 91 boats vying for $2,040,200 in total prize money. During the tournament, the fleet caught 48 billfish: 35 blue marlin, 12 white marlin and one sailfish.
Can’t Deny It