A renewed offshore bite helped Sushi roll into third place Wednesday as the 53rd Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament reached its midpoint with the best offshore action of the week.
Sushi, captained by Tim Day, Wilmington, arrived at the scales with a 467.4-pound blue marlin, capping a day that featured 31 billfish releases. The bite was back on after a slow Tuesday and Sushi angler Kevin Travis of Clearwater, Fla., made the most of his hook-up. He battled his catch for more than two hours and spent most of the time hauling his fish from deep underneath the boat. He tired, but very happy when he reached the Big Rock scales. . Travis told the crowd that gathered at the Big Rock weigh station: “This was my first and my last.”
Travis – who had never landed a blue marlin before – completed a hat trick of rookie blue marlin anglers on the 53rd Big Rock leaderboard. Travis Stephenson, Angier, who reeled in a 652.8-pound blue marlin Monday aboard Double B, and Jeffrey Gregg of Boca Raton, Fla., who caught a 580.6-pounder earlier that same day on the Blue Water, had never landed blue marlins before this Big Rock.
“It was a struggle,” Travis said. “I’ve been offshore fishing before but this was tough … the toughest. It was a lot of work … but a lot of fun, too. That’s what we came down here to do.”
Day, who fished the Big Rock off and on since 1984, reveled in his first trip to the scales with a blue marlin in his boat.
“It’ll feel kinda cool later tonight, that’s for sure,” Day said. “Once I get through the overwhelming feeling of all this (media attention) I’ll enjoy where we’re at. There’s still a long way to go … but this feels good right now."
Day, plans to head offshore again Thursday even though his crew has fished three straight days.
“It was a great bite today … a great bite,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll see the same bite.
“The water’s not moving real hard and the weather goes bad Friday-Saturday. We’re looking at what … 15 or 25 knots of wind? I’m going to fish tomorrow and then I’m done.”
And Day knew right where he wanted to fish.
“I’ll go look for that piece of water again. I don’t know if it’ll be there. I’m sure it will drift up the beach a little bit. It’s definitely the prettiest place I’ve fished all week. There were three or four boats in there with me that all caught fish. They all released them, but there were plenty of fish there to get caught.”
Competitors on 113-of-135 boats headed offshore Wednesday, including 92 boats that fished both Monday and Tuesday. Since weather conditions are expected to change Friday, many boats will undoubtedly fish Thursday even though it will leave them “fished out” for the rest of the tournament.
For that reason, Thursday may be the wildest day of this wild 53rd Big Rock.
Monday featured raucous celebrations after two blue marlins were weighed in. Blue Water, captained by Gray Hall, Morehead City, was first to the scales with Gregg’s 580.6-pounder to win the $284,750 Big Rock’s Fabulous Fishermen prize for the first blue marlin that weighed more than 500 pounds. Double B captain Kenny Sexton of Manteo reached the scales about two hours later with Stephenson’s 652.8-pound blue marlin to take over what now appears to be a solid hold on first place.
Sexton had good fortune Wednesday as the Double B scored the first release of the day with a white marlin hook-up to collect $2,000. The Double B also released a second white marlin shortly after 1 p.m.
The renewed bite played havoc with the Big Rock billfish release division. Five different boats – Carolina Lady, Mega Bite, Pelagic, Safari and Jesus Freak – recorded three releases apiece to take control of the division.
Jesus Freak, captained by David Walker of Mechanicsville, Va., leads 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., holds second place with 925 points for releasing two blue marlins and one white marlin.
Carolina Lady, captained by Steven Henderson of Cape Carteret, is in third place with 925 points for releasing two blue marlins and a white marlin after the Galot III.
Leadership in the dolphin division completely changed Wednesday. Peggy, captained by Mike Guthrie of Beaufort, took over the lead with a catch that weighed 41.1 pounds. Chainlink, captained by Ralph Griffin, Morehead City, grabbed 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. Sea Hag, captained by Alan Willis, Jamestown, holds second place with a catch that tipped the scales at 21 pounds.
The competition continues Thursday at 9 a.m. after a blessing of the fleet and the official announcement that lines are allowed in the water. Competitors are allowed to fish 4-of-6 fishing days and must notify officials of the days they do not intend to fish.