The Double B won the 53rd Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament without a last-minute scare when no hook-ups took place Saturday during the final six hours of fishing.
Kenny Sexton, Manteo, captain of the Double B, grabbed the lead for good Monday afternoon when he showed up at the Big Rock scales with a 652.8-pound blue marlin reeled in by Travis Stephenson of Angier. Sexton and crew receive $524,375 for the victory.
Blue Water, captained by Gray Hall, Morehead City, was the inaugural tournament leader with a 580.6-pound blue marlin landed by Jeffrey Gregg of Boca Raton, Fla. Blue Water captured the Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of $284,750 for weighing in the first blue marlin to weigh more than 500 pounds plus and will also receive second place prize money totaling $191,050.
Sushi, a boat captained by Tim Day, Wilmington, finished third with a 467.4-pound blue marlin caught Wednesday by Kevin Travis of Clearwater, Fla. Sushi receives $126,700.
None of the blue marlin leaders were able to fish Saturday … but it didn’t matter. Winds from the south knocked the bite to zero. The final day of Big Rock fishing – for the first time in more than 20 years – turned out to be a nonfactor.
The 53rd Big Rock will always be remembered for its wild start and its flat-line finish. The reactions that followed Monday weigh-ins rank at or near the top of Big Rock raucous celebrations.
But just one additional blue marlin arrived at the scales after that and none were landed during the second half of the tournament even though the bite was strongest Thursday. The competition ended with 27 blue marlin releases, 69 white marlin releases and five sailfish releases. It’s the smallest total number of releases (101) in five years, but very close to the average number (104) for the past 11 years. The tournament release rate was 96%.
Since there were no releases Saturday, there were no changes to the billfish release standings on the final day. Rom Whitaker, Hatteras, captain of the Release, finished the competition with 1,150 points for six white marlin releases and a blue marlin release to win $56,944. Release if the first boat in Big Rock release history to tally seven releases in a tournament.
Jesus Freak, captained by David Walker of Mechanicsville, Va., finished second in the release division with 1,050 points for two blue marlin and two white marlin releases to receive $34,166. Galot III, captained by Guy “Porky” Herring of Knoxville, Tenn., came in third with 1,050 points (two blue marlins and two white marlins). Galot III lost in the tournament tiebreaking criteria and receives $22,777.
Peggy, captained by Mike Guthrie, Beaufort, ended up winning the largest non-billfish prize of the tournament he pulled up to the scales Wednesday with a 41.1-pound dolphin. That catch captured the dolphin winner-take-all prize ($87,550), the weekly dolphin prize ($5,225), a daily dolphin prize ($920) and a daily dolphin runner-up prize ($613) for a total haul of $94,308. Chainlink, captained by Ralph Griffin, Morehead City, finished second in the dolphin division with a 38.9-pounder. Griffin and crew will receive $4,297. The payout would have flipped if the Chainlink dolphin had weighed 2.3 pounds more.
Franchise Sails, captained by Brian Efland of Cedar Point, won the wahoo division with a 53.7-pounder caught Monday. Jabez, captained by Ben Polk, Mt. Pleasant, S.C., finished second with a 38.6-pound catch. Franchise Sails receives $6,330 while Jabez collects $4,788.
No tunas were caught during the 53rd Big Rock.
The crew of Reel Love recorded the 53rd release of the 53rd Big Rock to win a special release prize. Reel Love, captained by Jeff Vreugdenhil, Clinton, receives $5,300 for its timely catch.
Huntress, captained by Max Weaver, Goldsboro, was the only gamefish daily prize winner Saturday. Huntress angler Bryon Geer, Goldsboro, reeled in the 20-pound dolphin Saturday, one of three gamefish weigh-ins on the final day. Bizzy B, captained by Rob Bizzell, Kinston, won the runner-up dolphin daily prize of $613 for a dolphin that weighed 9.4-pounds. It was a small consolation prize for the Bizzy B crew who earlier in the week lost an estimated 700-pound blue marlin to a pulled hook.
The 53rd Big Rock wraps up Saturday night with an awards banquet set at the Crystal Coast Civic Center. Tournament officials will distribute the $1,464,925 purse to winners.