An 18-year-old angler won the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and may have paid for college at the same time!
When an 18-year-old, college-bound angler hit the water in the Gulf of Mexico with friends on the vessel "Can't Deny It" June 22, he must've simply hoped to hook up or watch one of his teammates do it. After cruising for most of the day, it was fisherman Will Beard's turn in the seat. The Alabama teen had the best timing ever, as he was the one to engage with the huge fish.
"I go hop in the chair and we didn't know what really to expect," he said. "We knew it was a marlin 'cause we saw the bill. It took out about 800 yards of line and we started backing down on it. It filled that whole cockpit full of water. Getting covered in water was awesome."
It would take him some time to breathe easy for the big weigh-in, but it was worth the wait. The payoff was $131,040!
The team that won the billfish classic was made up of several underdog high school graduates and college students, all of which were childhood friends from Alabama. The event started at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, Florida, on the Gulf Coast near the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. When weigh-in time rolled around, the 16th annual fishing tournament offered some $2 million in prize money.
A record 91 boats, including "Reel Fire" and "Born2Run," left the marina in search of the heaviest blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo. The overall prize money doled out was also an ECBC tournament record. Beard's cash awards could've actually been higher had he and his friends been able to buy into some of the optional categories they would've won.
"I do 20 percent of the work, the boat is doing probably 40," Beard said. "We've got our wire man, that's an important job. Todd on the wire, that's a 128-pound kid. We're attaching him to a 700-pound blue marlin. It's a lot to ask, and he did a hell of a job."
Cover photo courtesy Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic via MSN