Inspiration captain Casey Wagner, Morehead City, and angler Terry Clark, Beaufort, landed a 437.7-pound blue marlin Tuesday to grab second place in the 54th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament during the competition’s second day.
But Wagner is second to none when it comes to special Big Rock moments.
Wagner, who serves as the tournament president, has fished the Big Rock the past 30 years. He’s pulled into the Big Rock weigh station many times with a big catches. But this was an extra special occasion since his son, Cole, served as the mate and his daughter, Kristen, was on board as an observer.
There were moments during the 93-minute fight when Wagner watched his son work, watched his daughter watch Clark reel … and felt truly blessed.
“To have a couple of my children on the boat … you just have to cherish every moment of it,” Wagner said. Then, there was a pause and he added: “You don’t get them very often.”
Wagner’s wife, Keli, lost her battle with cancer in 2008. The Big Rock lady angler tournament was renamed in her honor and last Saturday, the Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament experienced its best competition ever.
Wagner – who put the Inspiration fishing team in position to win $161,980 – was asked if perhaps a bit of divine intervention might have had a hand in things … both Saturday and today.
“I’m sure she’s looking down on us,” he said, smiling. “I think she’s beaming from ear to ear. I know she’s very proud.”
Clark was proud, too. This was just his second Big Rock and earlier in the day he’d drawn a lucky number that put him in the chair when a big blue marlin hit the bait. Clark’s big fish swam away from the boat, forcing Wagner to run the Inspiration in reverse more than two miles.
“When we first hooked the fish it took off running up north,” Wagner said. We backed down hard on him for probably over 30 minutes. We covered 20 Loran points. Terry was working hard … he did great.”
Clark was also getting soaked.
“It was a wet back down … a lot of water was coming over the stern,” Clark said. “But it was a lot of fun.”
Additional fun occurred after the Inspiration turned toward the Big Rock scales with Clark’s blue marlin catch onboard.
“It was a great ride home,” said Wagner. “You know what’s here (at the weigh station) and you know all your family and friends are going to be here. It’s been a very special day.”
It was a special day for Flybuoy, too, since the Charleston, S.C.-based boat maintained its tournament lead. Flybuoy angler Todd Baxley and captain Robert Hollingsworth caught a 499.3-pound blue marlin Monday and have held the lead to the 54th Big Rock since they showed up at the scales.
While Flybuoy is in position to win $444,050, no boat has yet reeled in a blue marlin big enough to qualify for the $246,500 Fabulous Fisherman’s prize. Flybuoy came within a pound of winning that prize. It goes to the first boat catching a blue marlin weighing a minimum of 500 pounds.
Since the prize is still available, many boats will probably elect to fish Wednesday as the Big Rock heads toward its midpoint. The 54th Big Rock offers a $1,252,950 purse and most of it is still up for grabs.
Even though offshore weather was excellent Tuesday, and 116-of-120 boats elected to fish, Big Rock anglers managed just 19 releases during their six hours of fishing. Anglers caught and released 9 blue marlins, 8 white marlins, one sailfish and one hatchet marlin. Competitors caught and released 30 billfish Monday when the competition got underway.
Jabez, captained by Ben Polk, Mt. Pleasant, S.C., captured daily $2,000 prize for scoring the first release. The jabez crew hooked and released a white marlin Tuesday just seven minutes into the competition.
Gamefish weigh-ins dominated the second half of Tuesday afternoon at the Big Rock weigh station. Tuesday fishing action yielded new overall leaders in the dolphin division and the first tuna the Big Rock has seen in two years
Sensation, captained by Dale Britt, caused a major sensation when it showed up at the Big Rock scales with a 56.8-pound yellowfin tuna reeled in by Wilson angler Walt Hooks. Sensation would receive prize money totaling $24,791.68 if no other tuna are caught.
Can Do Too took over the lead in the dolphin category with a 41.3-pound catch hauled in by Sid Gold of Stewart, Fla. The Winterville-based Job Site, captained by Bill Farrior, is in second place with a 30.7-pound dolphin caught by Cori Thomas.
Impulse, captained by Cameron Guthrie, continues to hold the lead in the wahoo division with a 53.1-pounder landed by Cary angler John Elmo. The Miss Peggy Sue, captained by David Heeter, Sr., holds down second place with an 36.3-pound wahoo that was reeled in by David Heeter of Spencer, W.Va.
The Big Rock continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. Each boat is allowed to fish 4-of-6 days during the competition.