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52nd Big Rock attracts 156 entries as purse reaches $1.6 million

Historically speaking, every Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament develops its own distinctiveness.

In 2007 there were three lead changes in one day. In 2008, the Artemis led wire to wire. Last year, Sea Creature won on the final day of the competition, helping Steve “Creature” Coulter notch his second Big Rock win as a captain.

While no one knows what lies ahead for the 52nd annual Big Rock, it’s already displaying special characteristics of its own. A record-setting Keli Wagner Big Rock Lady Angler competition held Saturday led to a flurry of late registrations Saturday night. That helped push the Big Rock purse to $1,615,850 by Sunday evening as competitors prepared for Monday, the first day of Big Rock’s main six-day event.

While the nation’s sluggish economy may have played a part in causing Big Rock registrations to lag, the BP Oil spill has actually helped increase participation. Three boats that fled the Gulf Coast waters have elected to use this opportunity to fish the Big Rock. One Gulf Coast boat – Click Through – nearly won the Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament.

“I just hope we didn’t spend all of our luck on the ladies’ tournament,” said Click Through captain Matt Mauldwin of Gulf Breeze, FL. “We caught a nice one … it was a good 113-inch and close to 600 pounds. I hope we can find another one like that this next week.”

So does every captain of the 156 boats entered to take part in the 52nd Big Rock.

Most of the lady Angler competitors fished to the South but many plan to fish to the North on Monday, especially fishing teams that will head offshore from Hatteras. Some boats tested the waters Sunday as they motored to port in Hatteras in preparation for the 52nd Big Rock’s first day.

“You don’t want to be sitting at the dock with a big prize for the first 500-pound blue marlin out there,” said Porky Herring, captain of the Galot3. “We plan to fish Monday … but I’m not saying where.”

The first boat to the Big Rock scales with a blue marlin that weighs at least 500 pounds will win $306,000. That total could increase as registrations continue Sunday night.

Competitors in the 52nd Big Rock are allowed to fish four of the six fishing days and must notify officials of the days they do not intend to fish. The competition kicks off Monday morning at 9 a.m. after a blessing of the fleet and the official announcement that lines are allowed in the water.

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