Hatteras Fever II, captained by Buddy Hooper of Buxton, N.C., took the midpoint lead of the 55th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament when it showed up at the scales Wednesday with a 465.3-pound blue marlin reeled in by angler Taylor Miller of Raleigh, N.C..
Miller – a former Division I pitcher at Appalachian State University – tossed all of his energy into the rod and reel when the fish began to run away from the boat. Miller had never fought a blue marlin before, but he pitched all of his energy into the rod and reel and strong-armed his catch back to the boat in 28 minutes.
“I thought the fish might run out again … but it didn’t,” Miller said as he spoke to reporters at the weigh station. “As a pitcher, I threw the ball hard to get it past home-run hitters. Today, I threw myself into the reel. The whole thing was surreal.”
During the first two days of competition, the 55th Big Rock had just one other blue marlin brought to the weigh station. Sensation captain Dale Britt, Morehead City, and angler Trey Siner, Concord, N.C., grabbed the Big Rock’s inaugural lead Monday with a 423.8-pound blue marlin that Siner fought for 109 minutes.
Anglers Wednesday found better fishing conditions than they experienced in the previous two days. Only three of the 100 boats in the field elected to stay in port and that proved to be a good call as anglers scored 10 blue marlin releases, five white marlin releases and four sailfish releases in addition to the boated blue marlin.
“We had (the fish) hooked right in the top of the mouth and he just got out and did a lot of shakin’ and jumpin’,” Hooper said. “The pressure of the 130-pound (line) really wore him out. (Miller) did a great job … he did everything perfect. He’s a very good athlete and he did it perfect.”
Hooper and crew started the day south of where they wanted to fish when it came time to put lines in the water. After hearing on the radio that some boats were seeing blue marlins in another area, Hooper had his crew take in their lines and they ran at top speed to the hot spot.
Less than an hour later, Hooper’s move paid big dividends.
Since there’s no third-place blue marlin on the leader board, Hatters Fever II is positioned to win $478,050 if it holds onto the Big Rock lead for three more days. Sensation would receive $202,950 as runner-up from the $1,154,625 purse.
Sea Spud, captained by Pete Bae, Atlantic Beach, moved into first place in the billfish release division with 800 points after releasing a second blue marlin Wednesday. Sea Spud would win $37,312 plus daily release prizes if it holds onto this top spot.
Dancin’ Outlaw, captained by Thomas Wood, Harkers Island, is currently second in the billfish release division with 525 points earned with releases of a blue marlin and a sailfish. Wood is in position to win $22,387 plus the $2,000 first release of the day prize for Wednesday.
The Tuna category experienced a shake-up when Bil-Buster, captained by John Steele II of Hubert weighed in a 64.80-pounder soon after the scales opened. Magic Moment, captained by Fred Willis, Morehead City, continues to hold the top spot in the wahoo category with a 65.8-pounder.
The dolphin category leader is Goin Deep, captained by Kenny Sexton of Manteo. Goin Deep weighed in a 48.8-pounder Monday evening and has held the lead ever since.
The six-day competition continues Thursday at 9 a.m. Each boat is allowed to fish 4 out of the 6 days during the tournament.