Great things can happen in the blink of an eye.
Eye Catcher, a Wrightsville Beach-based boat captained by Burrows Smith, Wilmington, hooked a 606.9-pound blue marlin Monday just 11 minutes after the start of the 56th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and rookie angler Randy Kelley, Wrightsville Beach, reeled in his catch in just 46 minutes.
Eye Catcher took the inaugural tournament lead and is in line to win $109,915 from the $1,395,825 purse. Eye Catcher is not entered in all levels of the competition and was not eligible to win the $306,000 prize for landing and getting to the scales with first blue marlin that weighs a minimum of 500 pounds.
Eye Catcher remained atop the leader board Monday afternoon when Carnivore reached the scales with 410.7-pound blue marlin caught by Brandon Bass of Goldsboro. Carnivore captain Ed Petrilli, Cape Carteret – who won the 2010 Big Rock – was worried his 2014 catch might not be big enough to qualify, but smiled immediately when Bass’s catch made the leader board with 10.7 pounds to spare.
“Who knows if will hold up,” Petrilli said. “There’s a lot of good fishing out there and a lot of really good fishermen. We’ll see what happens.”
What happened next was a report from offshore that sent a shock wave through the Big Rock crowd gathered at tournament headquarters. Inspiration captain Casey Wagner, whose team had been fighting a blue marlin from 9:44 a.m. to 2:19 p.m., reported his catch was boated and measured 129 inches in lower jaw fork length.
To put this in perspective, the all-time Big Rock heaviest blue marlin (831 pounds) caught aboard Summertime Blues in 2000, measured 122 inches.
Inspiration is expected to arrive at the scales around 6 p.m.
Offshore conditions were a bit rougher than expected but the billfish bite was outstanding. By 1 p.m., competitors released 12 blue marlins, 18 white marlins and one sailfish.