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No major changes at Big Rock

The 59th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament reached its midpoint with more than half of its record $2,411,650 purse still up for grabs.

Only 76-of-177 boats entered in the Big Rock elected to fish Wednesday. Anglers who went offshore tallied 14 billfish releases: eight blue marlins, five white marlins and one sailfish. But no blue marlins were boated as the Big Rock first half came to a close.

That leaves Run-Off atop the leader board for the third straight day. Run-Off landed a 533.8-pound blue marlin early Monday to grab the inaugural tournament lead. Run-Off captain Brian Harrington, Morehead City, and his first mate, Marty Hiatt, teamed with angler Matt Hanley of Glen Allen, VA, to help Hanley land his first-ever blue marlin. Since 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 purse.

But most of the money is still up for grabs. Run-Off’s blue marlin would have finished third in 2015 and not placed at all last year. Anglers know that there are bigger blue marlins offshore … and three more days of fishing.

“The past two days, the best of the bite was up north,” said Big Rock board member Randy Ramsey, who handles the tournament radio. “Most of that water has moved out of the boundaries. I think everyone thought it would be completely out of the boundaries today.”

That means that competitors will use a service that provides ocean temperatures and current readings to help identify the next zone to fish.

“In my opinion, the biggest thing that hurts fishing is current,” Ramsey said. “If you’ve got hot water that’s running fast … the marlins just don’t bite. You want very little current and water that’s just as cool as you can find it. Every boat out there is getting satellite imagery. Most are hoping for something good later in the week.”

Weldor’s Ark, captained by Mike Taylor, Swansboro, maintains its hold on second place in the blue marlin standings with a 484.9-pounder landed by John Roberts, Greenville. White Caps, a boat captained by Scott Wiggins, Lagrange, holds third place in the standings with a 417.7-pound blue marlin landed by Carter White, Wilson.

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 with 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, having released five blue marlins in the first two days of fishing. Marlin Fever, captained by Cameron Guthrie, Morehead City, scored 1,450 points with three blue marlin releases and two white marlin releases. 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 is positioned to win $80,962 if it finishes second.

Megabite, captained by Teak Bell, Wilmington, unofficially tallied the 59th billfish release of the 59th Big Rock. If confirmed, the Megabite team will receive the $5,900 for its timely release.

Fishing continues Thursday morning at 9 a.m. Fishing teams fish 4-of-6 days during the tournament.

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