Run-Off ran off with $467,500 Monday when the Morehead City-based charter boat landed a 533.8-pounder to grab the inaugural lead of the 59th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
Run-Off captain Brian Harrington, Morehead City, and his first mate, Marty Hiatt, worked with Matt Hanley of Glen Allen, VA, to help the seasoned angler land his first-ever blue marlin. All three said teamwork was the key to their success during the 92-minute fight.
Everything went smooth even though the trio had never fished together before and were only able to practice a few fishing scenarios at the dock.
“I’ll tell you what … I’ve fished different places in the world and Marty and the other mates cleared the other lines just like that,” Hanley said, sweeping his hands apart. “Everything went perfect. It was extra special because my son was on board. To have him be there to see my first blue marlin … and to have it be something really special. It’s been a great day.”
Hanley’s catch was worth $467,500 because Run-Off entered the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s competition. The Level V division of the tournament is a “Winner-Take-All” to the entered team that arrives at the scales first with a blue marlin that weighs at least 500 pounds. This catch could be worth a total of $1,161,450 if Run-Off can hold off the competition through the next five days.
Late Sunday registrations and early Monday upgrades pushed the 59th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament purse to $2,411,650 just minutes before the competition began. By 9 a.m. Monday, 177 boats had entered and it was clear that this year’s event would be historic.
Winners in the billfish release categories are set to divvy up a record $605,400. A $1,000 entry in the “Winner-Take-All” dolphin category is worth a record $136,850 to the winner. The total blue marlin payout is projected to be a record $1,578,650.
The 59th Big Rock opened with a bang as three blue marlins were boated during opening day. Weldor’s Ark, captained by Mike Taylor, Swansboro, staked a claim to second place in the blue marlin standings with a 484.9-pound blue marlin landed by John Roberts. White Caps, captained by Scott Wiggins, Lagrange, holds down third place with a 417.7-pound blue marlin reeled in by Carter White, .
Participation levels in non-mandatory categories increased significantly across the board this year. More than 80% of all teams signed up for blue marlin Levels II and III and 110 of the boats entered all levels of the competition.
Signing up for optional categories paid big dividends right off the bat. Thirteen minutes after lines went into water Monday the tournament had its first big winner. Buddy Boy, captained by Scott Farmsworth, Beaufort, caught and released a white marlin to win a billfish daily prize that more than covered his entry fee.
Anglers released 56 billfish (36 blue marlins, 16 white marlins and 4 sailfish) and had an outstanding day offshore. Most teams are expected to fish again Tuesday since the bite has been outstanding for several days.
Most teams fished Monday as only four boats elected to use one-of-two mandatory lay days during the six-day event.
Fishing continues Tuesday at 9 a.m. when lines are allowed to go back in the water. Anglers are limited to fishing 4-of-6 days in the 6-day event.