A last-minute registration rush pushed the 52nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament to a field of 156 boats and a purse of $1,664,450 as the competition got underway Monday morning.

Five registrations Sunday night and three more Monday morning before the 9 a.m. deadline pushed the total to one more entry than the tournament had last year at the start of fishing. It means a team could win $912,825 if entered in all Blue Marlin levels.

As the 52nd Big Rock got underway, 92 boats opted to fish the first day and 64 boats elected to stay in port. Competitors are only allowed to fish four-of-six days in the competition.

Every Big Rock develops its own unique characteristics and the 52nd event is already defining its own distinct traits. A record-setting Keli Wagner Big Rock Lady Angler competition held Saturday led to a flurry of late registrations Saturday night and Monday morning. That helped push the Big Rock purse over $1.66 million before lines first went in the water.

While the nation’s sluggish economy may have played a part in causing Big Rock registrations to lag, the BP Oil spill has actually helped increase participation. Three boats that fled the Gulf Coast waters have elected to use this opportunity to fish the Big Rock. One Gulf Coast boat – Click Through – nearly won the Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament.

“I just hope we didn’t spend all of our luck on the ladies’ tournament,” said Click Through captain Matt Mauldwin of Gulf Breeze, FL. “We caught a nice one … it was a good 113-inch and close to 600 pounds. I hope we can find another one like that this next week.”

So does every captain taking part in the 52nd Big Rock.

The first boat to the Big Rock scales with a blue marlin that weighs at least 500 pounds will win $318,750.

Competition Monday continues until 3 p.m. Any boat hooked up before that deadline will be allowed to fight their catch until conclusion.