Even though the fourth day of the 53rd Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament produced more billfish activity than any previous day, nobody was able to catch a blue marlin big enough to bring to the scales.
Anglers on 113-of-135 released seven blue marlins, 31 white marlins and 3 sailfish as the billfish bite increased for a second straight day. But the big blue marlin proved elusive and the division remains unchanged as Big Rock heads into its final two days.
Double B captain Kenny Sexton, Manteo, has held the tournament lead since Monday when angler Travis Stephenson of Angier reeled in a 652.8-pound blue marlin. Blue Water, captained by Gray Hall, Morehead City, is in second place with a 580.6-pound blue marlin landed by Jeffrey Gregg of Boca Raton, Fla. Blue Water’s blue marlin was the inaugural leader of the tournament and it captured the Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of $284,750 for being the first blue marlin to weigh more than 500 pounds.
Sushi, a boat captained by Tim Day, Wilmington, is in third place with a 467.4-pound blue marlin caught Wednesday by Kevin Travis of Clearwater, Fla.
The Thursday offshore action proved wild at times. Release, captained by Rom Whitaker, Hatteras, had five white marlin releases while Ann Warrick, captained by Ted Kramer, Manteo, tallied three. Ann Warrick and Chainlink each had rare white marlin “doubleheaders” – catching and releasing two at the same time.
While billfish releases took center stage, an interesting thing happened in the dolphin division. Nine-year-old William Farrior III, son of Jobsite captain Bill Farrior, Jr., Farmville, weighed in a 29.2-pound dolphin. Everette Edwards, 85, who lives in Atlantic Beach and has fished 35 straight Big Rocks, caught a 29.8-pound dolphin on the Release. They are believed to be the youngest and oldest anglers in the tournament.
Since the offshore weather is projected to change overnight, most of the 135 boats in the Big Rock field elected to fish four straight days. That means 78 boats are “fished out” while only seven boats can fish both of the remaining days. Fifty seven boats have one day left to fish.
Jesus Freak, captained by David Walker of Mechanicsville, Va., continues to lead the release division with 1,050 points for two blue marlin and two white marlin releases. Galot III, captained by Guy “Porky” Herring of Knoxville, Tenn., tallied a white marlin release Thursday to increase its hold on second place. The Galot III now has 1,050 points for releasing two blue marlins and two white marlins.
Carolina Lady, captained by Steven Henderson of Cape Carteret, is still in third place with 925 points for releasing two blue marlins and a white marlin.
The crew of Reel Love earned a special bonus Wednesday when it recorded the 53rd release of the 53rd Big Rock. Reel Love, captained by Jeff Vreugdenhil, Clinton, will receive $5,300 for this special release at the Big Rock awards ceremony Saturday night.
Leadership in the dolphin division remained unchanged. Peggy, captained by Mike Guthrie of Beaufort, took over the dolphin lead Wednesday with a catch that weighed 41.1 pounds. Chainlink, captained by Ralph Griffin, Morehead City, holds the runner-up spot with a dolphin that weighed 38.9 pounds.
Franchise Sails, captained by Brian Efland of Cedar Point, continues to lead the wahoo division with a 53.7-pounder caught Monday. Jabez, captained by Ben Polk, Mt. Pleasant, S.C., took over second place Thursday with a catch that tipped the scales at 38.6 pounds.
No tunas have been caught during the 53rd Big Rock.
The tournament continues Friday at 9 a.m. after a blessing of the fleet and the announcement that lines are allowed in the water. Competitors can fish 4-of-6 fishing days and must notify officials of the days they do not intend to compete.