As the first half of the 54th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament came to a close Wednesday, competitors needed to look ahead and not in the rear view mirror.

Just two of the 120 boats in the field are eligible to fish the remaining three days of the competition. Only 26 boats will be allowed to fish two days. That means the other 92 boats have just one day of fishing remaining. Captains on those 92 boats will have to choose wisely if they hope to catch a blue marlin big enough to win.

Since no blue marlins were boated Wednesday when 97-of-120 boats went offshore, there were no changes to the standings in that division. That means Flybuoy, captained by Robert Hollingsworth of Charleston, S.C., maintained its lead with a 499.3-pound blue marlin caught Monday by Todd Baxley. It also means Inspiration, captained by Casey Wagner of Morehead City is in second place with a 437.7-pound blue marlin caught Tuesday by Beaufort angler Terry Clark.

But it also means one last thing: A 500-pound blue marlin could be worth $690,550 if the boat catching that blue marlin was entered in all levels.

Strangely, large blue marlins have been scarce. Even though this year’s tournament leader is smaller than 20 of the past 22 Big Rock winners, nobody’s saying it can’t hang on and win.

Anglers had a solid day offshore, releasing 10 blue marlins, 11 white marlins, a hatchet marlin and a sailfish. Five boats – Inspiration, Dancin’ Outlaw, Safari, Release and Ashley Lauren – each had two billfish releases on the day. This action helped push the release total to 72 billfish.

Morehead City charter boat Dancin’ Outlaw, captained by Thomas Wood, caught and released two blue marlins Wednesday to take over the release lead with 1,200 points (three blue marlin releases.) Compromise, captained by Larry Branham is in second place in the release division with two blue marlin releases and a white marlin release for a total of 925 points. Release, captained by Rom Whitaker out of Hatteras added two white marlin releases to its previous total (two white marlins and a blue marlin) and holds third place in the release division with 900 points.

Peggy, a Raleigh-based boat that lay in port Monday and Tuesday because of mechanical problems, recorded the 54th release of the competition to earn the special $5,400 release prize. Peggy, captained by Mike Guthrie, is one of the two boats that have three days left to fish. The Canterbury, Conn.-based Wraith, with Peter Kelly at the helm is the other boat with three days left to fish.

If no other blue marlins are weighed in, Flybuoy and Inspiration would do a 60/40 split on the levels that each boat entered. That means Flybuoy’s winning purse would jump to $496,710 and the Inspiration fishing team would receive $212,640. This would also mean that the $246,500 Level VI Fabulous Fisherman’s prize for a minimum 500-pound blue marlin would go unclaimed and 100% of the entry fees for that level would be returned to the competing contestants.

Since this prize is still available, many boats will probably elect to fish Thursday as the Big Rock heads into its second half. The 54th Big Rock offers a $1,252,950 purse and most of it is still up for grabs.

Full Pull, captained by Ryan Riggs, Wando, S.C., captured daily $2,000 prize for scoring the first release. The Full Pull crew hooked and released a white marlin 22 minutes into fishing.

Only four gamefish (all dolphins) were brought to the Big Rock weigh station Wednesday, causing just one change to the overall dolphin standings. Bank Walker, angler Braxton Montague of Raleigh landed a 31.7-pound dolphin to take over second place. Can Do Too continues to hold the dolphin lead with a 41.3-pound catch hauled in by Sid Gold of Stewart, Fla.

Sensation continues to be the solo leader in the tuna division with the 56.8-pound yellowfin tuna that was reeled in Tuesday by Wilson angler Walt Hooks. Sensation would receive prize money totaling $24,791.68 if no other tuna are caught.

Impulse continues to hold the lead in the wahoo division with a 53.1-pounder landed Monday by Cary angler John Elmo. The Miss Peggy Sue holds down second place with an 36.3-pound wahoo that was reeled in Monday by David Heeter of Spencer, W.Va.

The Big Rock continues Thursday at 9 a.m. Each boat is allowed to fish 4-of-6 days during the competition.