A late Monday hookup added extra drama to the start of the 55th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament as Sensation angler Trey Siner of Concord, N.C. reeled in a 423.8-pounder to give his team the early lead.
Siner and Sensation captain Dale Britt, Morehead City, battled their fish for nearly two hours after it ran deep below the boat. Britt, who serves on the Big Rock Board of Directors, was initially worried the catch might not make weight. But those concerns were gone with the wind when his team jumped to the top spot on the tournament leader board.
“We measured it in the water and the measurement in the water did not compare to the measurement on the boat … so I was concerned,” Britt said at the Big Rock weigh station. “The fish came up tail wrapped. We fought it for a long time and, unfortunately, the fish died. We hoped it would make the weight because it did not make the length. Thank the good Lord it did.”
Siner credited everyone on the boat for helping him reel in his catch. He patted Sensation mate Alan Scibal, Morehead City on his back and then pulled his hands away in pain. Britt turned Siner’s hands to the television cameras to show a slew of blisters from 109 minutes of fighting a blue marlin.
“To catch a blue marlin like this … in the Big Rock … that’s a bucket list thing, right there,” Siner said. “It’s early in the week, and a lot can happen. But right now I feel real good. It’s a great feeling.”
Sensation is entered in all levels and is currently in line to win $494,710 from the $1,154,625 purse. All but two of the 100 boats in the field went offshore Monday, a day that has been big in recent Big Rock history.
In 2008, five blue marlins were boated on the tournament’s opening day, including a 640-pounder that eventually gave Artemis the win. In 2011 and 2012, Double B and Fly Buoy, respectively, caught their winning catches on Monday. The Double B catch tipped the scales at 652.8 pounds while Fly Buoy just missed the Fabulous Fisherman’s Level VI award for a blue marlin weighing at least 500 pounds with a catch that weighed 499.3 pounds.
This year’s Fabulous Fisherman’s Level VI is worth $255,250 for the first boat to weigh in a 500-pound (or larger) blue marlin. Marlin fishing takes center stage at the Big Rock, but there is plenty of money up for grabs in the gamefish categories.
The Goin Deep, captained by Kenny Sexton of Manteo took the lead in the dolphin division with a 48.8-pounder landed by Andy Eaton of Virginia Beach. Sea Hag, captained by Allan Willis, Morehead City, weighed in a 45.2-pounder reeled in by Luke Ledford of Jamestown, N.C. to take the runner-up spot in the dolphin category.
Water’s Edge, captained by Robert Hollingsworth of Mt. Pleasant, S.C. grabbed the lead of the waho division with a 56.8-pounder reeled in by Charles Whitman of Charleston, S.C. Let It Ride, captained by Tommy McConlouge of Monmouth Beach, N.J., weighed in a 44.1-pound wahoo to grab the runner-up spot in that category.
The Irish Ayes, captained by Brent Johnston of Wilmington, grabbed both places in the tuna category with a 59.5-pounder reeled in by Don Bartenfelder of Manchester, MD, and a 50.9-pounder landed by Tom Slezak of Middleriver, MD.
Gamefish divisional winners receive $3,952 plus their share of the daily gamefish purse.
Compromise, captained by Larry Branham of Johns Island, S.C., had the Gregory Poole first release of the day, to win $2,000. Compromise also holds the early overall release lead with one blue marlin release.
Competitors in the 55th Big Rock are allowed to fish four of the six fishing days and must notify officials of the days they do not intend to fish. The competition continues Tuesday at 9 a.m. after the official announcement that lines are allowed in the water. Weigh-ins take place at Big Rock headquarters on the Morehead City waterfront.