TEENS TOP EMERALD COAST BLUE MARLIN CLAS­SIC

The event’s first boated marlin hangs on for the win

Marlin - - BEFORE THE STRIKE BLUEWATER CURRENTS -

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

Born2Run

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