A few anxious onlookers breathed a sigh of relief Friday when Sushi rolled up to the 57th Big Rock weigh station with a catch that failed to change the leader board.
Sushi, captained by Charley Pereira, Nags Head, boated a 419.1-pound blue marlin reeled in by Clayton angler Josh Barnes. When the weight of the Sushi catch was announced to the weigh station crowd, members of the EZ Boy crew –anchored 150 yards away – celebrated with the knowledge they’d enter the final day of the competition securely in second place.
EZ Boy, grabbed second place overall and the outboard division lead Thursday with a 556.3-pound blue marlin that was nearly set free. EZ Boy captain Van Pierce, Trinity, N.C., and his angler, Eric Kimball decided not to release their blue marlin after the mates got a good length measurement on the fish. 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.
It is unknown whether anyone from the Viking 62 fishing team was on hand to view the Sushi presentation. Viking 62, captain Brian Komer, Riviera Beach, Fla., and angler Earle Hall, Hampton, Va., have led the 57th Big Rock since Monday when the tournament’s inaugural weigh in tipped the scales at 680 pounds.
Komer’s crew has never really experienced a nervous moment during the tournament. Hall’s catch is the second biggest blue marlin reeled in during the Big Rock this century and it’s big enough to have won 26 of the last 30 Big Rocks. Unless a miracle happens offshore tomorrow, Viking 62 will win $558,375 from the Big Rock’s $1,632,650.
The Carly A, captained by Will Ross, Wanchese, N.C., is in third place with the 504.3 pound blue marlin reeled in by angler Adam Shack, Raleigh. The Carly A team would receive $143,350 if they can hold onto third place for one more day.
The middle third of the tournament turned out to be dominated by outboard division competitors. The EZ Boy, a 40-foot Winter powered by three Yamaha outboard engines, brought in the second biggest catch of the tournament Thursday. One day earlier, Reel Pleasure, a 33-foot OBX Boatworks vessel with twin Mercury outboards, brought 451.8-pound blue marlin to the scales.
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 EZ Boy's catch was announced.
All but five boats in the field of 149 elected to fish Friday. That means 101 boats are ‘fished out’ and only 48 boats are eligible to compete Saturday during the final day of fishing. Anglers experienced a decent bite Friday as competitors scored 22 billfish releases. This included 14 blue marlins, 7 white marlins and one sailfish released.
Starling Marine, captained by David Starling, Morehead City, continues to lead 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., holds the tuna division lead with a 134.3-pounder reeled in by angler Doug Allen, Vincentown, N.J. On The Hook, captained by Sammy Grayson, Georgetown, S.C., holds the wahoo division lead. On The Hook showed up at the scales with a 52.5-pounder caught by Chad Zittrover, Guyton, Ga. All gamefish division winners receive $3000 plus applicable daily prizes.
Prime Time, captained by Gray Hall, Morehead City, took the Level V release division lead Friday with a second blue marlin release for a total of 800 points. Prime Time would receive $73,312 (plus Level I release prize money) if it can stay in first place.
Accordingly IV, captained by Peter Dubose, Newport, is in second place with 800 points (scored after Prime Time) 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 925 points for two blue marlin releases 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 wraps up Saturday when fishing hours shift to an 8 a.m. start and a 2 p.m. finish. All billfish hookups made before 2 p.m. continue until a resolution is reached. Tournament trophies and prizes, for the Big Rock and the KWLA competition will be distributed at the Big Rock awards ceremony slated Saturday evening at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City.