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, setting and breaking records with each new sign-up.

By 9 a.m. Monday – the time lines went into the water and registration ceased – it became clear that this year’s event would be historic in many ways.

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. And the total blue marlin payouts are project to be a record $1,578,650.

When registration closed, 177 boats had signed up for the competition. While this was just three more boats than last year, participation levels in non-mandatory categories had increased significantly across the board. More than 80% of all teams signed up for blue marlin Levels II and III and 110 of the 177 boats entered all levels of the competition. That means a winning blue marlin catch would be worth $1,161,450 if it captures Levels I, II, III, IV and V.

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.

Most teams fished Monday as only four boats elected to use one-of-two mandatory lay days during the six-day event. These Monday anglers are gunning for the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s prize that this year is worth $467,500.

Last year, the Ashley Lauren fishing team pocketed $662,925 for a 621.4-pound blue marlin reeled in by Doug Phillips. The Ashley Lauren team missed winning the $433,500 Fabulous Fisherman’s (Level V) prize as Marlin Gull was first to the scales with a 500-pounder.

Marlin Gull, whose catch tipped the scales at 564.8 pounds, also finished second overall to receive an additional $238,400 for its catch.

Fishing continues Monday until 3 p.m. when lines are required to be pulled from the water if you are not already hooked up. Anglers are limited to fishing 6 hours each day during the four days that they elect to fish.