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Ashley Lauren grabs Big Rock lead

The Ashley Lauren – winner of the 19th annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler (KWLA) blue marlin tournament last Saturday – continued its hot streak Tuesday when the team arrived at the weigh station with a 621.4-pound blue marlin that grabbed the lead of the 58th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

Three big blue marlins were brought to the scales for the second straight day as the Big Rock leader board experienced a historic change. No boat had ever led the Big Rock after winning the KWLA until Ashley Lauren captain Mark Annis, Clayton, and angler Doug Phillips, Garner, showed up at the scales with their huge catch.

The Ashley Lauren team is now in position to win $662,925 if it can hold its lead through Saturday. But all 174 fishing teams have at least two days of fishing left.

Morehead City captain Chris Russell and angler C.J. Struyk needed just 26 minutes to boat a 558.8-pound blue marlin aboard Piracy to take over third place in the standings. Struyk, an East Carolina football center accustomed to shoving around defensive linemen, had no trouble pulling in a blue marlin that’s currently worth $158,320.

Marlin Gull, captained by Kenny Midgett, Wanchese, won the $433,500 Fabulous Fisherman prize Monday for the first 500-pound blue marlin of this year’s event. Marlin Gull angler William McSpadden, Coinjock, reeled in a 564.8-pound blue marlin three hours after lines went into the water on the tournament’s opening day.

The first blue marlin brought to the scales Tuesday was caught aboard Fowl Hooked by a father-and-son team from Camden, S.C. Boat captain Ron Prestage worked the controls as angler Zach Prestage reeled in a 525.8-pound blue marlin after a 52-minute fight. Fowl Hooked held second place in the Big Rock standings until the weight of the Ashley Lauren blue marlin was announced. Later, it was bumped off the leader board by the Piracy catch.

The last time the Big Rock had this much shuffle on the leader board was in 2007 when four blue marlins were weighed in and held spots on the leader board. Back-to-back days with huge blue marlins being caught may indicate the tournament is still wide open.

While weigh-ins dominated everyone’s attention, release activity was just as impressive. Nine blue marlins, nine white marlins and nine sailfish were caught and released Tuesday as all 174 boats in the field elected to fish in outstanding conditions.

Bank Walker, captained by Bryant Montague, Raleigh, took the Level V release division lead Tuesday with 800 points for two blue marlin releases. Bank Walker would receive $88,612 plus Level I release prize money if it can finish in first place
Energizer captain Daniel Monette, Cedar Point, holds second place in Level V release division after scoring a “grand slam” (releasing a blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish on the same day) Monday for a total of 650 points. Energizer would receive $53,167 plus Level I release prize money if it can finish as the runner-up.

Syked Out, captained by Dan Woody, Mt. Pleasant, SC, is in third place with 525 points for releasing a blue marlin and a sailfish. Syked Out is in position to win $33,445 from the Level V release prize pool.

The 58th Big Rock continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. and most competitors are expected to head offshore since weather at the end of the week looks a bit unsettled. The six-day event concludes Saturday with an awards ceremony at the Crystal Coast Civic Center.

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