When the fourth day of the 55th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament came to an end Thursday, contestants were probably more concerned with what lay ahead than what had already happened.
Just 30-of-100 boats elected to go offshore as gusty winds and rough seas made fishing difficult for the second time in three days. Anglers released two blue marlins, two white marlins and one sailfish but there were no changes to the overall release standings or any of the top gamefish categories.
One blue marlin was boated and brought to the Big Rock weigh station aboard Sandra D, but that catch did not meet tournament minimums of 400 pounds or a lower jaw fork length of 110 inches. The Sandra D team will be penalized 400 pounds from the weight of the largest blue marlin it weighs in during the week and 400 points will be taken away from the total of release points it accumulates.
Since only 30 boats fished Thursday and just 10 went offshore Tuesday, most of the field can fish both of the remaining two days. Only 25 boats in the field have one day left to fish.
Unfortunately, fishing conditions Friday do not look to be much better than Tuesday or Thursday. The weather is expected to improve early Saturday, which creates a final day shoot-out situation with most (if not all) of the field eligible. They should encouraged by the fact that 19 of the previous Big Rock winners were bigger than the current Big Rock leader.
Hatteras Fever II took the Big Rock lead Wednesday when it showed up at the scales with a 465.3-pound blue marlin reeled in by angler Taylor Miller of Raleigh, N.C. The rough Thursday conditions allowed Hatteras Fever II, captained by Buddy Hooper of Buxton, N.C., to hold the Big Rock lead another day.
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. 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 two more days. Sensation would receive $202,950 as runner-up from the $1,154,625 purse.
Sea Spud, captained by Pete Bae, Atlantic Beach, still holds first place in the billfish release division with 800 points. Sea Spud released blue marlin Monday and Wednesday and 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 Wednesday. Wood is positioned to win $22,387 plus the $2,000 first release of the day prize for Wednesday.
El Tejano, captained by David Redd of Wadmalaw Island, S.C., scored the first release of the day Thursday to win the daily first billfish release prize of $2,000 prize. El Tejano hooked and released a white marlin at 9:59 a.m.
Bil-Buster, captained by John Steele II of Hubert is the tuna category leader with a 64.80-pounder caught Wednesday. Magic Moment, captained by Fred Willis, Morehead City, continues to hold the top spot in the wahoo category with a 65.8-pounder caught Tuesday. 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 Friday at 9 a.m. Each boat is allowed to fish 4 out of the 6 days during the tournament.