The second day of the 56th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament proved much different than the first as Tuesday action centered on billfish releases, gamefish catches, and odd offshore accidents.
Monday fishing was outstanding. Three huge blue marlins were brought to the Big Rock scales, including the largest tournament blue marlin caught this century. Inspiration captain Casey Wagner, Morehead City, and angler Bruce Brown, Nags Head, grabbed the Big Rock lead with a 754.3 pound blue marlin that was landed after a 4 hour 35 minute fight.
Second place is held by Eye Catcher, a Wrightsville Beach-based boat captained by Burrows Smith, Wilmington. Eye Catcher hooked a 606.9-pound blue marlin 11 minutes after the start of the competition and rookie angler Randy Kelley, Wrightsville Beach, reeled it in 46 minutes later.
Carnivore captain Ed Petrilli, Cape Carteret, holds down the third spot with a 410.7-pound blue marlin caught by Brandon Bass of Goldsboro.
Even though 73-of-120 entered in the tourney elected to fish Tuesday, huge blue marlins, like the ones caught Monday, were nowhere to be found. Anglers tallied a good number of billfish releases – 10 blue marlins and 20 white marlins – but they could not reel in the big ones.
The day began strangely as lightning started to pound offshore waters 10 minutes before the start of fishing. It was a light show the likes of which many had never seen.
“It cracked all around for a solid hour,” said Contango captain Daryl Brower, Morehead City. “Steam was coming up from the water where the lightning hit. It was two hours before it was totally clear. What a crazy way to start the day.”
The squall had a hand in two different accidents. The Magic Moment, captained by Freddie Willis, Morehead City, was struck by lightning during this outburst. No one aboard was harmed, but the boat lost power to both engines and had to be towed to port for repairs.
The second accident occurred on the Susie Q when a participant slipped down a wet ladder and broke her ankle. Susie Q captain Timothy Rhoads, Newport, headed back to port and had Big Rock headquarters coordinate rescue squad efforts with the US Coast Guard.
Mishaps aside, competitors experienced great fishing. Billfisher, captained by John Duffie, Ocean City, MD, released a blue marlin and a white marlin to take over second place in the overall release standings with 925 points. Dancin’ Outlaw, captained by Thomas Wood, Harkers Island, leads the weekly release division with two blue marlins and two white marlins releases (1,050 points) that were all tallied Monday. Dancin’ Outlaw would win $77,287 if it can hold onto its lead.
While other teams were offshore fishing, Inspiration team members took a lay day to relax and get ready for the third day of fishing. A celebration at Wagner’s house went late into the night as friends from all over dropped in to congratulate the captain and crew.
Inspiration will receive $306,137 from the 56th Big Rock’s $1,395,825 purse if it can hang onto the tournament lead through Saturday. Wagner did not elect to enter all levels of the competition and was not eligible to receive the $306,000 prize for being the first to catch and bring to the scales a blue marlin that weighed a minimum of 500 pounds.
That means there’s a lot of prize money up for grabs Wednesday as the competition continues. Brower said he would “fish out” (Wednesday and Thursday) as long as the $306,000 winner-take-all prize was still available.
No doubt other Big Rock competitors plan to do the same.