Huge gamefish catches and a late flurry of billfish releases provided much of the excitement Tuesday during the second day of fishing in the 59th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. A new leader emerged in the “Winner-Take-All” (WTA) dolphin category and a near-record wahoo was brought to the scales as leaders in the blue marlin division remained positioned just as they were when the day began.
Islander, captained by Bobby Schlegel, Greenville, took the lead in the “Winner Take All” dolphin division with a 69.1-pounder 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, grabbed the wahoo gamefish division lead with a 97.7-pounder caught by Chad McIntyre, Raleigh. McIntyre’s catch is believed to be the second largest wahoo caught during a Big Rock competition.
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 him land his first-ever blue marlin. Hanley’s catch was the first 500-pounder caught by a team entered in the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s division. That meant Run-Off got to run off with a $467,500 WTA prize from the Big Rock’s record $2,411,650 purse.
Weldor’s Ark, captained by Mike Taylor, Swansboro, holds onto second place in the blue marlin standings with a 484.9-pounder landed by John Roberts, Greenville. Roberts landed his catch after a 95-minute fight.
Third place in the blue marlin division is held by White Caps, a boat captained by Scott Wiggins, Lagrange. White Caps angler Carter White, Wilson, landed his 417.7-pound blue marlin after a lengthy 2.5-hour fight.
Only 22-of-177 boats entered in the tournament elected to stay in port Tuesday. Anglers who went offshore experienced a slow bite early on but it picked up significantly during the midday hours. By the end of the day, anglers tallied 30 billfish releases: 15 blue marlins, 11 white marlins and 4 sailfish.
Bull Tolson, Manteo, captured the Tuesday Level VIII WTA prize of $48,520 with three blue marlin releases. The Sea Toy now holds the overall release lead with 2,000 points, having released two other blue marlins Monday.
Sea Toy just missed winning the Monday $48,500 WTA prize. Free Spool captain Allan Rouse, Jacksonville, scored 800 points just before the Sea Toy managed to do it. That gave Rouse and his team the inaugural WTA prize in Big Rock’s newest competition category. The wildly popular level added $287,375 to the Big Rock’s purse and is credited with pushing the tournament purse over the $2 million mark.
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.
With four days remaining, future fishing strategy is beginning to come into play. Sea Toy is expected to fish Wednesday to add to its release lead. But what others choose to do is not so clear.
Cloudy skies and scattered thundershowers are expected later in the week. Opinions are mixed as to how this weather change will impact the billfish bite.
Fishing continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. when lines are allowed back in the water. Fishing teams are only allowed to fish 4-of-6 days during the tournament.