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Shootout looms at 55th Big Rock

When it became evident that no blue marlin would be brought to the scales Friday, the 55th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament changed from a six-day event to a one-day shootout.

That’s because 99-of-100 boats in the field still have the opportunity to go offshore Saturday and win a lion’s share of the $1,154,625 purse. In the past two decades, all but one Big Rock winning catch weighed more than the current Big Rock leader.

Hatteras Fever II took the Big Rock lead Wednesday when angler Taylor Miller of Raleigh, N.C. landed a 465.3-pound blue marlin. Sensation captain Dale Britt, Morehead City, and angler Trey Siner, Concord, N.C., was the tournament’s inaugural leader and currently holds second place with a 423.8-pound blue marlin caught Monday. Since there’s no third-place blue marlin on the leader board, Hatters Fever II is positioned to win $478,050 and the Sensation would receive $202,950 as runner-up.

Even though gusty wind conditions made it difficult to fish, 76 boats traveled out to the Gulf Stream and found that the billfish bite had improved from the previous two days. Anglers released 12 blue marlins, nine white marlins and four sailfish during the penultimate six hours of fishing. Unfortunately, big blue marlins continue to be elusive which sets up a “now or never” situation Saturday.

Every boat, with the exception of Enigma, has one day left to fish. Additionally, Saturday is lining up to be the best day of the week. Winds from two successive storm fronts will finally clear the area and leave near-perfect conditions for the final six hours of fishing. Saturday fishing hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Big Rock final-day fishing has produced many dramatic moments. In 1990, Top Dawg pulled up to the Big Rock weigh station unannounced with a 717-pound winner. In 1998, the Waste Knot captured the 40th Big Rock with a 564-pound blue marlin and featured extra drama when the boat ran out of gas on the way to weigh station.

In 2006, Chainlink grabbed first place away from Skirt Chaser late Saturday with a 501.5-pound blue marlin that took nearly seven hours to land. The most recent Saturday drama took place in 2009 when the Sea Creature snatched victory from the Figment on the final weigh-in of the final day.t

Figment captain Glynn Loftin, Swansboro, was at the weigh station when the Sea Creature backed in. “He’s got me,” Loftin said after just a quick glance. Loftin didn’t have to wait for the weight. One look told him everything he needed to know.

And 55th Big Rock competitors know this event is far from over. A hot day of releases would completely rewrite the leader board in that division. More importantly, the Level VI prize of $216,750 is available to the first blue marlin weighing 500 pounds or more. Finding a catch that heavy would also vault that lucky boat into the Big Rock lead.

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 finished in the top spot.

Goin’ Deep, captained by Kenny Sexton, Manteo, is took over second place in the billfish release division with 800 points earned with the release of two blue marlins. Sexton is positioned to win $22,387 if he can hold this position one more day.

Piracy, captained by Chris Russell, Beaufort, took over third place in the billfish release division Friday 800 points after a second blue marlin release. Russell is in position to win $14,924.

Sea Toy, captained by Bull Tolson, Manteo, scored the first billfish release of the day Friday to win $2,000. Sea Toy hooked and released a white marlin at 9:32 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 Saturday at 8 a.m. and concludes at 2 p.m. or after the resolution of all billfish hookups – whichever comes later. Each boat is allowed to fish 4 out of the 6 days during the tournament.

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