A last minute rush of registrations for the 58th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament yielded additional competitors and increased the field to 174 boats late Sunday as the competition purse reached $1,914,100.

To put this into perspective, Creator won $800,000 Saturday as the long-shot winner of the Belmont Stakes. A week from now, the winner of the 58th Big Rock could receive $1,096,425 if entered in all levels of the competition.

The U.S Open Golf Tournament set to start Thursday at Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, PA, is the only sporting event in the nation that offers a bigger payout than the Big Rock next week. That wasn’t always the case.

Back in 2001, when Sea Striker captain Adrian Holler pocketed $910,000 as a solo winner in the Level III division, he topped the $900,000 won by professional golfer Retief Goosen at the 101st U.S. Open Championship.

The very next year, U.S. Golf officials increased their top prize and Tiger Woods became the first U.S. Open champion to collect $1 million for victory.

Every Big Rock has its share of special moments. In 2008, the competition was extra special because it represented the golden anniversary of the event. The Artemis, based out of Charleston, S.C. took top honors in the 50th Big Rock with a 640-pound blue marlin caught during the first day of the competition. Artemis – named after the Greek god of hunting – felt hunted all week. But it survived five days atop the leader board and more than 100 hook-ups to win the anniversary event.

Artemis received $703,512.50 from the $1,854,575 purse. Fifty years earlier, the first prize had been 250 silver dollars.

This year, the first boat to the Big Rock scales with a blue marlin that weighs at least 500 pounds will win $433,500 if entered in the Level VII “Winner Take All” category. This total could increase as registrations continue through 9 a.m. Monday.

Competitors in the 58th Big Rock are allowed to fish four-of-six fishing days and must notify officials of the days they do not intend to fish. Because of the Level VII winner-take-all prize, most boats elect to fish Monday, the first day of the competition.

That has proven to be a good strategy in recent years. Four of the past five tournament winners have been caught on Monday. As the start of Monday fishing hours approached, most boats in the field had elected to fish the opening day.

The competition kicked off Monday morning at 9 a.m. after a blessing of the fleet and the official announcement that lines are allowed in the water. The competition concludes June 18th with an awards ceremony at the Morehead City Civic Center.