Flybuoy, captained by Robert Hollingsworth of Charleston, S.C., grabbed the inaugural lead of the 54th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament with a huge catch that just missed a special prize.
Flybuoy’s blue marlin tipped the scales at 499.3 pounds to jump into first place and position itself to win $444,050. But it just missed the 500 pound requirement to receive the tourney’s instant $246,500 Fabulous Fisherman’s prize.
When Big Rock weighmaster Randy Gregory announced the weight to the crowd, Hollingsworth looked shocked … and then just smiled. He shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and let out a little laugh.
“We’ll, we knew it was going to be close,” Hollingsworth said. “I guess my first thought when I heard the weight was ‘Oh well’ ”
Hollingsworth was happy because other people on the Flybuoy fishing team were happy.
“My boss (angler Todd Baxley) is pleased and that’s what counts,” Hollingsworth said. “He’s participated in this tournament for 10 or 12 years and this is the first fish he’s been able to bring in. He’s happy as could be. We plan to fish again tomorrow and we’ll see if we can get one that’s just a bit bigger.”
Excellent weather yielded 30 billfish hookups, including 19 blue marlins and three sailfish. A rare billfish grand slam was recorded by Bench Mark, a Greenwood, S.C.-based boat captained by Bobby Garmany. The Bench Mark team released a white marlin, a blue marlin and a sailfish during the Big Rock opener.
Compromise, captained by Larry Braham, John’s Island, S.C., captured daily $2,000 prize for scoring the first release of the day. The Compromise crew hooked and released a blue marlin just 21 minutes into the competition.
Even though Flybuoy’s blue marlin dominated the attention of the Big Rock weigh station crowd, tournament personnel were equally busy with gamefish weigh-ins. Impulse, winner of the 2004 Big Rock, grabbed the inaugural lead in the wahoo category with a 53.1-pounder landed by John Elmo of Cary. The Miss Peggy Sue, fishing out of Spencer, W.Va., holds down second place with an 36.3-pound wahoo reeled in by David Heeter.
Jabez, took the early lead in the dolphin category with a 29.2-pound catch hauled in by Carl Ulm of Mt. Pleasant, S.C. The Wilmington-based Trophy is in second place with a 28.3-pound dolphin that was caught by Michael Hudson.
No tunas were brought to the Big Rock scales Monday. The tuna category has a $9,208 rollover from last year when no tunas were caught all week.
All gamefish leaders and boats in second-place are guaranteed to collect the daily gamefish prizes. If these fish remain atop the gamefish leader board throughout the 54th Big Rock, the crews will receive an additional overall winnings.
Most of the 120 boats in the field are expected to go offshore tomorrow as near-perfect offshore conditions continue. The 54th Big Rock offers a $1,252,950 purse and most of it is still up for grabs.
Fishing teams have the option to select any 4-of-6 days to fish during the competition. During the first day of fishing, 17-of-120 boats elected to fish.
The second day of action will have all teams focused on the Level VI Fabulous Fisherman’s prize for being the first boat to weigh in a blue marlin weighing 500 pounds or more. Today the Flybuoy team came close … about as close as you can come without getting there.