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The Spectator Sport of Big Game Fishing

The Spectator Sport of Big Game Fishing

The Sport of Big Game Fishing
The Sport of Big Game Fishing
The Sport of Big Game Fishing
The Sport of Big Game Fishing
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The Sport of Big Game Fishing

Our Gulf Coast is home to some of the biggest and best big game fishing tournaments in the world. The millions of dollars ‘on the line’ brings out fierce competition among the best of the best teams chasing Blue Marlin and other pelagic species in the Gulf of Mexico.

These events also bring out thousands of fans who watch the big game fishing tournament weigh-ins at places like The Wharf in Orange Beach and the Sandestin Resort in Miramar Beach. 

At least they did…pre-pandemic. But with fans returning to sporting events, concerts, and other outdoor activities across the country, it looks like this summer could see big fish being cheered by big crowds.

“The crowds at The Wharf are a huge part of the entire tournament experience for both fans and the teams,” said Chris Miller of the Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Orange Beach.  “We are most hopeful this year will be like so many of our great years in the past.” 

If you aren’t familiar with these big game tournaments, you might be wondering just what it is fishing fans come out to watch. Sometimes as many as 10,000 of them pack Main Street as The Wharf is transformed into a viewing party as the crews bring their fish to the weigh scale. Weighed blue marlin are taken into the crowd on a cart so fans young and old can get an up-close look at the majestic creatures.

“Last year was the first year we missed a Blue Marlin Grand Championship weigh-in,” said Ben Avritt of Fairhope. “My wife and I are not big offshore fishing people, but you don’t have to be an avid fisherperson to enjoy the show and get an up-close look at the huge fish that are being weighed in.”

The Blue Marlin Grand Championship is known as ‘The Greatest Show in Sportfishing.’ The weigh-ins are a part sporting event, part rock and roll show, and 100% glitz and glamour! With two huge ‘Jumbo-Tron’ style LED projection screens, a concert-worthy sound system, camera operators, and a tournament emcee, the spotlight brightly shines on the teams.

“When I walk on stage at The Wharf, I feel like a rockstar,” said Captain Joe Birbeck of the fishing vessel You Never Know, who won the 2016 tournament when he and his crew weighed in an 806 pound Blue Marlin. “It’s like the Super Bowl of Sportfishing. The atmosphere is so electric, and a big part of that is because of the fans!” 

The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic held annually at the ” draws as many as 100 teams vying for upwards of $2,000,000 in tournament prize money. Large crowds line the marina docks and adjoining areas to watch as boats make their way to the scale after spending two and a half days offshore.

Even with all the challenges of 2020, the tournament still had nearly 80 teams competing for almost $1,750,000 in cash awards. With a homeport of Destin, local boat Mollie took home a check for $514,934 by catching the winning Blue Marlin, which weighed 660.4 pounds and placing third in the catch and release division.

“That’s a tournament weekend of a lifetime for any boat, yet there was one thing missing,” said long-time Mollie Captain and fan-favorite Jeff Shoults. “For us to win our hometown event, the only thing that would have made it sweeter would have been to bring in that winning fish in front of the usual huge crowd.” 

The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin takes place June 23-27, and The Blue Marlin Grand Championship at The Wharf in Orange Beach is July 14-17. There is no charge at either event for spectators.

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