One day after rough offshore conditions made billfish hookups nonexistent, competitors in the 57th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament experienced a steadily improving bite Wednesday that helped propel an outboard division entrant into the spotlight.
Reel Pleasure, a 33-foot outboard captained by Jeff Kingo, Raleigh, put angler Mike Fiuzat of Houston, Tx., over a pod of blue marlins around 10 a.m. After hooking and losing their first blue marlin, Fiuzat made the most of his second chance by reeling in a 451.8-pounder to grab first place in the inaugural Big Rock outboard division.
“The easy part was getting the fish in the boat,” said Kingo, who reported his catch hooked at 10:28 a.m. and boated at 2:05 p.m. “Once we got it to the boat, we put ropes on the bill and the tail and pulled it in over the side.
"The hard part was getting home.”
Kingo had one of his engines shut down while still 19 miles offshore. Not wanting to lose the other engine, he reduced speed and eventually called Sea Tow. King's early estimate of reaching the scales at 4:30 p.m. turned into an ETA of 6:45.
“This makes it worth it,” Kingo said as he watched his angler talk to the media. "Mike has come here to fish with me in other tournaments. But this was his first blue marlin. This feels really good."
The crew of Viking 62 knows that feeling well. Viking 62 captain Brian Komer, Rivera Beach, Fla., and Earle Hall, Hampton, Va., reeled in a 680-pound blue marlin Monday during opening day and are in position to win $558,375 from the Big Rock’s $1,632,650 purse.
Will Ross, Wanchese, N.C., captain of the Carly A and angler Adam Shack, Raleigh, landed a 504.3-pound blue marlin later that day and hold to second place in the tournament. Shenandoah, captained by Alan Willis, Morehead City, holds third place with a 503.6-pound blue marlin pulled in by angler Robbie Stallings, New Bern.
The Carly A will receive $202,525 if it maintains the runner-up position the rest of the way. Shenandoah, winner of the $365,500 Fabulous Fisherman prize for the first 500-pound blue marlin entered in Level VII, will receive an additional $143,350 if it can hold onto third place three more days.
Only 37 of the 149 boats in the Big Rock field elected to stay in port Wednesday. Anglers experienced a rough ride as they headed offshore, but those early bumps gave way to increasingly better conditions.
This weather improvement helped produce new leaders in the dolphin division, and generated the first tuna weigh-ins of the competition. There was also a shakeup in the release standings as competitors combined to release 13 blue marlins and four white marlins.
Mollie Whopper, captained by Emery Ivey, Morehead City, took the lead in the “Winner Take All” dolphin division with a 48.18-pounder reeled in by angler Todd Nunn, Raleigh. This catch would be worth $110,500 to the Mollie Whopper crew if it stays in the lead through the end of the tournament.
Speculator, a boat captained by Edward Murray, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., took the lead in the billfish release category with a white marlin release to go with his blue marlin release on Monday. Accordingly IV, captained by Peter Dubose, Newport, had the first blue marlin release of the tournament Monday and still holds the runner-up spot in the release category.
The 57th Big Rock continues Thursday at 9 a.m. All 149 boats in the competition are allowed to fish 4-of-6 days during the tourney. Most of the competitors are expected to head offshore Thursday as conditions continue to improve.