Just when it looked as if the fourth day of the 59th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament might end without a blue marlin catch, Floar Plan had the right plan to grab a position on the leaderboard.
“We came across some cool water and got lucky,” said Flohr Plan captain Brent Gaskill, Harkers Island. “Our fish got in the bait and hit the long right rigger hard. Then we got lucky again.”
Floar Plan angler James Wright jumped in the chair and reeled in what turned out to be a 426-pound blue marlin in 21 minutes. The amazingly quick catch proved good enough for third place in blue marlin standings and a potential payout of $166,480 from the Big Rock’s record $2,411,650 purse.
“We had a lot of luck today,” Gaskill said. “This was our last day to fish … other boats were fishing the same area … we barely backed up to this fish … it only ran off 350 yards of line and stayed up for us. We were very lucky.”
Floar Plan’s catch was the first blue marlin boated since the tournament’s opening day. It created the first shakeup in the blue marlin standings since the tournament began.
Run-Off remains atop the blue marlin leader board for the fourth straight day. Run-Off angler Matt Hanley, Glen Allen, VA, landed a 533.8-pound blue marlin early Monday to grab the inaugural tournament lead. Hanley’s catch was the first 500-pounder caught by a team entered in the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s division, Run-Off received the $467,500 “Winner Take All” (WTA) prize from the Big Rock’s record purse.
Run-Off captain Brian Harrington, Morehead City, and his first mate, Marty Hiatt, teamed with Hanley to help him land his first-ever blue marlin. If Run-Off can hold off the other competitors for two more days, the boat will win a Big Rock record $1,161,450.
Weldor’s Ark, captained by Mike Taylor, Swansboro, still holds second place in the blue marlin standings with a 484.9-pounder landed by John Roberts, Greenville. Robert’s catch has held the second position in the standings since Monday afternoon. Weldor’s Ark is in position to win $250,720 if it can finish in the runner-up position.
Islander, captained by Bobby Schlegel, Greenville, continues to lead the WTA dolphin division with a 69.1-pounder that was reeled in by angler Jess Powell, Nashville. This catch is worth $137,700 to the Islander crew (plus a daily prize) if it can finish in the tournament lead.
Doc Fees, captained by Jed Galloway, Wilmington, maintains the wahoo gamefish division lead with a 97.7-pounder caught by Chad McIntyre, Raleigh. No boat has managed to land a yellowfin tuna to qualify for that division’s prize offerings.
Sea Toy, captained by Bull Tolson, Manteo, holds the overall release lead with 2,000 points. Sea Toy anglers caught and released five blue marlins in the first two days of fishing. Sea Toy is positioned to win $139,187 in addition to the $48,520 Tuesday WTA release prize if it can stay in first place.
Marlin Fever, captained by Cameron Guthrie, Morehead City, tallied 1,450 points with three blue marlin releases and two white marlin releases. Marlin Fever is positioned to win $80,962 if it finishes second in the release division.
Megabite, captained by Teak Bell, Wilmington, tallied the 59th billfish release of the 59th Big Rock and is slated to receive $5,900 for this timely release.
Only 58-of-177 Big Rock boats elected to stay in port Thursday but billfish continued to be elusive. Anglers scored 17 billfish releases, including four blue marlins, nine white marlins and four sailfish. Uno Mas, captained by Tommy Lynsky, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, won the daily release prize of $48,520 for three releases: two sailfish and a blue marlin.
As the fourth day of the competition came to a close, 17 boats were fished out and only 29 can fish both of the remaining two days. Fishing teams fish 4-of-6 days during the tournament. Fishing continues Friday morning at 9 a.m.