Citation captained by Eric Holmes of Buxton deserves a meritorious citation for the fish he brought to the scales on the first day of the 52nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
Holmes put the Citation crew into a dominating lead with a tournament record 883-pound blue marlin. The Citation’s monster-sized catch topped the 831-pounder caught by Ron Wallschlager aboard Summertime Blues during the 42nd Big Rock. It instantly earned the Citation crew a $318,750 prize for landing the first blue marlin to weigh more than 500 pounds.
“The fish never came up we never new what it was until we got it to the boat, amazingly enough,” said Holmes. “The fish went down; it took a bunch of line and ended up straight down under the boat. It got tail wrapped and we finally got it up after two or three hours of pulling. When we finally saw it we couldn’t believe it”.
It was just one unbelievable moment in a day marked by strange events.
The Citation’s record-breaking catch was one of four blue marlins hooked Monday during the first day of competition. It was a pinnacle moment in a day marked by unusual happenings that left Big Rock president Randy Ramsey at a loss for words.
“It has been strange,” Ramsey said while manning the Big Rock radio at tournament headquarters. “We had 92 boats fish and only 10 billfish were released ... and two of them were a hatchet marlin and a spearfish. Of the three blue marlins that were fought, two were fought for over an hour. The one that was boated was fought for over three hours. It’s really unusual to see fish fought that long. It’s weird ... very unusual.”
But rare events were abundant on this most-uncommon day. Citation angler Andy Thomasson of Richmond, Va. knew he was in for the fight of his life the moment he took control of the rod.
“It was a fight from the start,” Thomasson said. “We got it to the first tag line and then the second and then the fish took off again.
“The fish never got out of the water. It was a hard fight and when it was all over with I was weak in the knees ... and the arms too. For a 63-year-old man, it was about all I wanted to handle.”
It was also the first blue marlin Thomossan had ever caught.
“I’ve caught white (marlin) and I’ve caught a lot of sail(fish) but I’ve never caught a blue (marlin) so this was a nice one to start out on. I don’t think I want another one.”
Not that Thomasson could easily top his first.
A mid-day rainstorm pounded the Morehead City waterfront which added to the strange brew of events taking place offshore. Despite an unusual tournament start, lucky teams managed to find a place on the leader board as the Big Rock headed toward its second day.
Last year’s winner – Sea Creature—showed up at the weigh station with a tournament leading 52.4-pound dolphin. Sea Creature captain Steve “Creature” Coulter won $746,820 in 2009 and is in position to win another $96,900.
The Manteo-based Sea Toy, captained by Bull Tolson, released the first billfish of the 52nd Big Rock to capture $7,732.80 from tournament’s $1,664,4350 purse. Tolson scored the first billfish release of the day just 12 minutes into the competition.
Marlin Mania, captained by Jim Bowman of Frisco, recorded a white marlin release in the morning and then had three sailfish hookup at once later in the afternoon. A tripleheader of sailfish is a rare event, but it almost went unnoticed on this crazy day when all the attention was on Citation’s amazing catch.
“I’m stunned by today ... I don’t know what to say,” said Holmes. “To catch a fish this big ... it’s something. It really is. We got lucky and it’s good to be lucky.
And he’s in position to win $912,825 from the tournament’s $1,664,450 purse.
Fishing continues Tuesday at 9 a.m. Teams are allowed to fish four days during the six-day competition that will crown its winners Saturday night at the Crystal Coast Civic Center.