60th Big Rock reaches shootout stage

MOREHEAD CITY N.C. – It’s official … it’s a shootout. The 60th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament heads into its final hours with most of its record $2,560,925 purse still up for grabs.

Since only 61 boats are fished out, two thirds of the field (122 boats) still have a shot to be the big winner. If tournament leaders aren’t worried they should be. A short list of boats eligible to fish Saturday reads like a Big Rock all-star lineup:

  • Sea Striker won two Big Rocks (37th and 43rd) and is looking to become the first boat to score three Big Rock victories. Sea Striker captain Adrian Holler, Newport, also held a lead in the 39th Big Rock.
  • Sea Creature, captained by Steve Coulter of Hatteras, won the 51st Big Rock with a Saturday catch and had the final hook-up of the 41st Big Rock. Coulter also captained the Outlaw to victory in the 34th Big Rock.
  • Two recent Big Rock champions (Inspiration – 2014 and Ashley Lauren – 2016) are shooting to add second titles to their resume while Morehead City-based Waste Knot, the 1998 champion, would duplicate what it did 20 years ago with a winning Saturday catch.

Honey Hush, captained by Chuck Lindner, Morehead City, has held the Big Rock lead since Tuesday with a 518.5-pounder.  Honey Hush angler Robert Gorrell reeled in the catch to put his team in position to win $753,875.

Game Changer, captained by Geoff Rosenberry, Bluffton, SC, took the tournament’s inaugural lead Tuesday with a 409.2-pound blue marlin that was reeled in by angler Michael Perry. Game Changer, the inaugural tournament leader, was bumped down the standings by Honey Hush, but is positioned to receive $262,400 if it can stay in second place.

Rare Breed, captained by Bubba Simmons, Mt. Pleasant, SC, holds third place with a 400.4-pound blue marlin caught by E.J. Nettles, a 16-year-old junior angler from Charleston. Nettles’ catch is currently worth $174,300, but any change to the blue marlin standings would bump Rare Breed off the leaderboard.

The offshore bite improved Friday as anglers released 17 blue marlins, two white marlins and three sailfish. One blue marlin was boated by the Dun-Rite fishing team but that catch did not meet tournament minimums.

Big Rock rules require blue marlins brought to the scales to be at least 400 pounds or measure 110 inches by lower jaw fork length. Dun-Rite has one more day to fish but will be penalized 400 pounds on any other blue marlin brought to the scales and 400 points from its overall release point total.

So far, no boat entered in the Level V Fabulous Fishermen division has been able to find a 500-pound blue marlin. A 500-pounder is worth $501,500 to the first Level V boat to weigh one in.

Since there is only one day left for the 67 remaining Level V participants to weigh in a blue marlin, it’s necessary to explain what will happen to the $501,500 prize if no Level V 500-pounder is caught. If no qualifying Level V fish is weighed in, the total amount of prize money will be paid to “the boat entered in this category that attains the most release points.”

Currently, Wallhanger, a boat captained by Gary Blount, Greenville, is set to win $706,958, which includes the $501,500 Level V prize money. Wallhanger, a boat owned by Brian Allen, Raleigh, leads the overall release category with three blue marlins and one white marlin release for a total of 1,325 release points.

Shifting Gears, a boat captained by Alan Scibal, Beaufort, holds second place with 1,200 release points. Wallhanger and Shifting Gears are both fished out with a dozen boats within reasonable striking distance of taking the top spot.

Reel Crazy, captained by John Munroe, Bald Head Island, tallied the first release of the day to win $5,000. Release, captained by Rom Whitaker, Hatteras, collected 800 release points for two blue marlin releases Friday to win the $48,521 Level VIII daily release of prize. Whitaker elected to upgrade and participate in Level VIII just a short time before tournament registrations closed.

Goombay, captained by Brian Peele, Salter Path, continues to lead the winner-take-all dolphin division with a 71.1-pounder pulled in by angler Jeff Ross. Goombay is positioned to win $146,200 plus $7,000 in daily and other weekly prizes.

Sarcastic, captained by Jonathan Rose, Burlington, leads the wahoo division with a 74.4 pounder caught by angler Gary Teer. The Sarcastic catch is worth $7,000 in daily and weekly prizes.

Reel Country, captained by Mark Chambers, Morehead City, holds the tuna division lead with a 19.9-pounder landed by Mark Ellington. The Reel Country catch is worth $7,000 in daily and weekly prizes.

Waste Knot, a boat owned by Tom Groce, Norfolk, won the fifth 60thBig Rock Rolex watch drawing conducted at the end of fishing Friday. One more fishing team will win a Rolex Submariner after lines are pulled from the water Saturday.

Competitors are allowed to fish four-of-six fishing days and must notify officials of the days they do not intend to fish. Fishing hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday as the tournament draws to a close. Any hook-up that occurs before 2 p.m. Saturday can continue until it reaches a resolution. Resolutions include being caught, being released or the fish simply getting away.