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Eye Catcher snags Big Rock lead

Sometimes great things 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 just 11 minutes after the start of the 56th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and rookie angler Randy Kelley, Wrightsville Beach, reeled in the big catch in just 46 minutes.

“All the credit goes to Ray (Hales) and Burrows … I just listened and did what I was told,” Kelley said. They both manhandled the fish and it made it easier for me to reel it in. That fish was as heavy as anything I’ve ever felt. It was all that the four of us could do to get that blue marlin on board. I feel very lucky to do something like this the first time I go blue marlin fishing.”

Eye Catcher now holds the blue marlin lead in Levels I and II which is worth $109,915. Hakes, who owns the Eye Catcher, and Smith decided not to enter all levels so they were not eligible for the $306,000 prize that goes to the first boat entered in the Fabulous Fisherman Level VII prize category to catch a blue marlin that weighs a minimum of 500 pounds.

Offshore conditions were a bit rougher than what weather forecasters estimated. But even though anglers fished in white-cap conditions, the billfish bite was outstanding. By midday, competitors released 10 blue marlin, 14 white marlin and 6 sailfish.

Carnivore, winner of the 2010 Big Rock, was headed to the scales with a second blue marlin as Eye Catcher finished their weigh-in paperwork. This second catch is estimated to arrive at the scales around 2:45 p.m. ... just 15 minutes before Monday fishing comes to an end.

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