EZ Boy, a 40-foot Winter powered by three Yamaha outboard engines, grabbed the outboard division lead Thursday and second place overall in the 57th Big Rock with a 556.3-pound blue marlin that was nearly set free.
EZ Boy captain Van Pierce, Trinity, N.C., and his fishing team didn’t want to take a blue marlin if it made more sense to score a billfish release. After a 66-minute fight, Pierce’s mates got a good measurement of their catch and had an important decision to make.
“There were some big fish that had been boated this week and we didn’t want to kill it if it wasn’t worthwhile,” said EZ Boy angler Eric Kimball, Trinity, who had never landed a blue marlin before. “We called in measurements and it took us 15 minutes to make the decision. We tried to do the right thing. It was a good call.”
EZ Boy’s ‘good call’ bumped the Carly A from second in the overall standings. EZ Boy is in position to win $202,525 for finishing second and would receive an additional $8,925 for finishing first in the outboard division.
Carly A captain Will Ross, Wanchese, N.C., and angler Adam Shack, Raleigh, who landed a 504.3-pound blue marlin Monday, would receive $143,350 for finishing third.
This was the second straight day that outboards dominated the action at the Big Rock scales. Less than 24 hours earlier, Reel Pleasure, a 33-foot outboard captained by Jeff Kingo, Raleigh, brought 451.8-pound blue marlin to the scales.
Viking 62, captained by Brian Komer, Riviera Beach, Fla., continues to lead the 57th Big Rock. Viking 62’s 680-pound blue marlin reeled in Monday by Earle Hall, Hampton, Va., is the second biggest blue marlin caught during the Big Rock this century. Viking 62 team, which has one day of fishing remaining, would win $558,375 from the Big Rock’s $1,632,650 purse for coming in first.
Shenandoah, captained by Alan Willis, Morehead City, won the $365,500 Fabulous Fisherman prize for the first 500-pound blue marlin entered in Level VII. Shenandoah’s 503.6-pounder was reeled in by angler Robbie Stallings, New Bern. Shenandoah was bumped off the leaderboard when the weight of the EZ Boy's catch was announced.
All but two boats in the field of 149 elected to fish Thursday. Anglers experienced the best bite of the week and scored 25 billfish releases, including 9 blue marlins, 15 white marlins and a sailfish.
These better conditions also resulted in lead changes in all three gamefish divisions. Starling Marine, captained by David Starling, Morehead City, took the lead in the “Winner Take All” dolphin division with a 48.7-pounder reeled in by angler Chad Shingleton, Clayton, N.C.. This catch is worth $110,500 to the Starling Marine crew if it can finish the tournament in the lead.
Big Oil, captained by Tim Tanghare, West Cape May, N.J., thought he might have a billfish hookup at 11:28 a.m. but discovered instead that his fishing team had hooked a 134.3-pound tuna. Angler Doug Allen, Vincentown, N.J. reeled in the huge tuna to grab the lead in that species category.
On The Hook, captained by Sammy Grayson, Georgetown, S.C., took the wahoo division lead with a 52.5-pounder caught by Chad Zittrover, Guyton, Ga. All gamefish division winners receive $3000 plus applicable daily prizes.
Huntress, captained by Max Weaver, Morehead City, holds the lead in the Level V release division with one blue marlin and one white marlin release for a total of 525 points. Huntress would receive $73,312 if it can stay in first place. Job Site, captained by Bill Farrior, Farmville, is in second place with 525 points (scored after Huntress) and is in position to win $43,987 from the Level V release prize pool.
Speculator, a boat captained by Edward Murray, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., still holds the lead in the Level I billfish release category. Speculator has 525 points for a blue marlin release and a white marlin release and is in position to receive $15,000. All ties in the billfish release division are decided by time: whatever boat scores the most points first.
Freestyle, captained by Kenny Sexton, Manteo, tallied the 57th billfish release of the 57th Big Rock. The Freestyle team will receive the $5,700 for its timely release.
The 57th Big Rock continues Friday at 9 a.m. All 149 boats have at least one day left to fish. Competitors are limited to fishing 4-of-6 days during the tournament.