The Big Rock Foundation Makes Waves With a Milestone 1.6 Million Dollar Donation to Charities!


710 Evans Street, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557

(252) 247-3575 · 


Contact: Crystal Hesmer, Big Rock Foundation Director,


The Big Rock Foundation Makes Waves With a Milestone 1.6 Million Dollar Donation to Charities!  

Morehead City, NC (November 28, 2023)The Big Rock Foundation Makes Waves of Generosity with a Staggering $1.6 Million Donation to Charities on Giving Tuesday.

The Big Rock Foundation proudly announces a momentous donation of $1,659,000 to charities on Giving Tuesday. This extraordinary contribution is the largest annual donation and marks a milestone for the foundation. The Big Rock Foundation’s charitable giving now surpasses $10 Million since 1986! 

September 14, 1957, marked the first-ever landing of a blue marlin in Morehead City. Today, we’re making history once again by giving back $1.6 million to well-deserving organizations in Carteret County and beyond. It’s our way of honoring the spirit of that historical catch 65 years ago and paying tribute to the growth of the tournament. 

Just like that historic catch, The Big Rock Foundation is hooked on the idea that small actions can lead to something monumental. The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, with its 271 boats and anglers from around the world, is the driving force behind the incredible donation. Additionally, the Big Rock Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament has become the world’s largest ladies-only tournament, boasting 266 boats. The Big Rock Kids Tournament has become a renowned event that gets Jr. Anglers hooked on fishing and has funded donations to children’s charities in Eastern North Carolina. 

“The charitable contributions announced today are made possible by the record-breaking success, participation and sponsorship across all three events, and year-round retail sales.” – Madison Struyk, Executive Director. 

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament isn’t just about fishing; it’s about creating a tidal wave of change. The Big Rock Foundation knows how to ride that wave, turning every dollar from retail sales, every generous donation, and every participant’s enthusiasm into a force for good.

The Foundation combines the passion of its donors, tournament participants, sponsors, and retail customers to generate funds for its philanthropic endeavors. Those funds are distributed among a carefully selected group of charities that align with the foundation’s mission. The charities represent a diverse range of causes, including but not limited to education, healthcare, community improvement, and conservation.

The Big Rock Foundation is proud to announce its largest single donation ever made – a transformative donation of $500,000 to Carteret Health Care for the establishment of a state-of-the-art oncology center. The funds will be utilized to establish a cutting-edge cancer center at Carteret Health Care, providing crucial resources for the diagnosis, treatment, and care of individuals facing cancer. This initiative aligns with the Big Rock Foundation’s mission to make a lasting impact on community health and ensure that residents have access to top-tier medical facilities and services.

“This is a historical day for the Big Rock tournaments, the best day of the year!”, commented Crystal Hesmer, Foundation Director. “We are so thankful for our many donations to the Foundation this year including  memorial, individual and participant contributions.”

The Big Rock Foundation extends its heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed to the foundation’s success, emphasizing that this donation is a testament to the collective power of individual donors, memorial contributions and support for the Big Rock Tournament. 


About The Big Rock Foundation: 

The Big Rock Foundation is the charitable arm of the Big Rock Tournaments. The foundation harnesses the support of donors, participants, and retail sales to make a significant impact on society. The foundation is committed to creating lasting change by supporting charities across various sectors, including education, healthcare, conservation, and community improvement. Through a collaborative approach, The Big Rock Foundation inspires individuals and businesses to contribute to the movement for a better community. For more information, please visit



Autism Society of NC, $10,000

Beaufort Little League, $177,000

Beaufort Middle School, $84,000

BridgeKids Preschool, $28,000

Broad Creek Middle School, $20,500

Coastal Pregnancy Care Center, $20,000

Croatan High School-BAND, $50,000

Delta Health Foundation, $10,000

East Carteret-Band, $16,000

Family Promise, $20,000

IGFA, $16,000

Knights of Columbus- LAMB Foundation, $2000

Make a Wish, $10,000

Military Appreciation Day, $10,000

Morehead City Middle School Band, $33,000

Newport Babe Ruth League Inc., $30,000

Newport Little League, $48,000

NC STATE University, $30,000

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, $5,000

Pretty in Pink, $35,000

West Carteret Band, $50,000

Western Carteret Fire and EMS, $69,000

Carteret Community Theatre, $250,000

Carteret Health Care, $500,000



KWLA- Carteret Healthcare, $25,000

BRKIDS- Boys and Girls Club, $35,000

Broad Street Clinic, $7,500

Crystal Coast Hospice House, $7,500

East Carolina Council for Boys Scouts, $7,500

The History Place, $7,500

Hope Mission, $7,500

Martha’s Mission, $7,500

North Carolina State University, Research, $10,000

North Carolina Symphony-Carteret County, $17,000

Station Club/ Easter Seals UPC, $7,500

Bogue Sound Elementary Play Structure Ribbon Cutting

The Big Rock Foundation celebrated another Carteret County School project donation this week at Bogue Sound Elementary School with their new play structure, Cypress Preserve. In 2022, the Big Rock Foundation donated $78,000 to the school to build this inclusive play area. The new (ADA compliant) playground will allow every student regardless of their disability to participate in all types of play, teaching lessons of inclusion and understanding. This playground is OPEN to the public outside of school hours!

“This playground showcases Big Rock’s commitment to the youth in our community.” – Tommy Bennett, Big Rock Charity Chairman

The Big Rock Foundation is primarily funded by the success of all 3 Big Rock Tournaments (Big Rock, KWLA, Big Rock Kids), private donors, sponsors, and proceeds from The Big Rock Store. Become a part of the tradition that gives back – Buy your 65th Annual Big Rock T-Shirt before they’re gone!


Fellow Big Rock Supporters,

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our latest newsletter, “The Spread”. The Spread is a new digital initiative from Big Rock that brings you the inside scoop year-round. This newsletter will highlight all of the things you know and love about Big Rock, but is tailored to those of us that can’t get enough of sportfishing.

“Big Rock isn’t just a week-long blue marlin tournament, it’s a lifestyle.”

To us, Big Rock isn’t just a week-long blue marlin tournament, it’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle that encompasses camaraderie, sportsmanship, conservation, innovation, charitable giving, and world-class sportfishing. That’s what The Spread will feature – the accomplishments of our participants, interesting stories from fishermen around the world, updates on the industry leaders, and of course an inside look into the rich 65-year history of The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

As we begin this new venture, we hope that you’ll follow along, give us feedback, and enjoy the read.
– The Big Rock Board of Directors & Staff


SEA WEEZ, a 67′ Ricky Scarborough, released Blue Marlin on Saturday and Sunday, both estimated to be 900+ pounds. The boat has fished around the world since it splashed two years ago, including out of Morehead City during the 2021 Big Rock Tournament. The team is currently in the Azores, Portugal.

The skeleton crew consisted of Captain Ross Finlayson and anglers Hannah Drake and Joe Byrum. Hannah reeled in the fish on Saturday, and after a 45-minute fight, Joe worked the wire. On Sunday, Joe got a chance to be in the hot seat while Hannah handled the leader. It’s always impressive to hear stories of lady anglers hanging with the guys — especially when they’re catching near granders (1,000+ lb. marlin). You can tell in the videos, wiring these monsters isn’t a walk in the park. From Saturday (7/29) – Monday (7/31), the team has gone 7 for 11 on blue marlin, with all but one being above the 500lb. class. Sea Weez’s owner, Nick Cortezi will join his crew later this week.

“I sure hope this bite keeps going so he can enjoy it too.” – Joe Byrum

The Dare County Boat Builders Tournament happened this past weekend out of Oregon Inlet. The tournament was founded when boat-building legend, Taylor Harrison, lost his battle with cancer. After his passing, John Bayliss and Mike Merritt put their heads together to create an offshore fishing tournament that would raise funds for Harrison’s children’s educational expenses. After several successful tournaments, the Dare County Boat Builders Foundation was established to continue raising college funds for local schoolchildren. Their 20th Annual Tournament featured a full circle moment when DESPERADO, built by Taylor Harrison himself, won the tournament! Captain Gray Blount and his crew released 1 Blue Marlin + 4 Sailfish.


Big Rock board and staff were on hand last week for the groundbreaking of the new Big Rock Outdoor Learning Center at Beaufort Elementary School. This center will feature a covered pavilion with seating, garden beds, weather stations, a greenhouse, and more. Big Rock donated $50,000 for this project which was included in the grand total of $404,000 donated to Carteret County Schools in 2022. Lindsay Parker, granddaughter of one of the original founders of Big Rock, was the leader and organizer of this special project. Lindsay and her family PARKER AUTO GROUP continue to support the tournament today as Diamond Sponsors.

Every tournament in the North Carolina Billfish Series donates proceeds to the community or other worthy causes. Though it’s an often overlooked aspect of billfish tournaments, it’s one of the participants and our favorite components. To date, The Big Rock Foundation has donated over $8.5 Million to organizations in Carteret County and beyond!


The Big Rock is more than a fishing tournament. The Big Rock Store is a year-round retail operation on the waterfront in Morehead City. Big Rock may be known for our annual tournament tees, but you’ll find new shirts, hats, gifts, and more each season! And it’s shopping you can feel good about, because all proceeds from The Big Rock Store benefit Big Rock Charities. The next time you’re in town, visit us: 710 Evans Street. We’re open Monday-Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM and Sunday 12 – 5 PM. Can’t make it to town? We ship nationwide, shop online:

SUBSCRIBE NOW for the latest edition of THE SPREAD by Big Rock

Big Rock Outdoor Learning Center Groundbreaking

BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — Beaufort Elementary School celebrated the groundbreaking of their new Big Rock Outdoor Learning Center.

To help their students learn hands-on, the center will have an outdoor classroom, greenhouse, bug bar and weather station. The Big Rock Foundation was able to help with a $50,000 grant for to project.

“This adventurous Learning Center is going to just make a huge impact, not only for our kids but when they sit down at the end of the year to take that big science test, they’re going to have a lot of prior knowledge,” said Charity Clemmons, principal of Beaufort Elementary School.

“Without that initial step from the Big Rock tournament and Big Rock Foundation, this project would have never gotten off the ground,” said Lindsay Parker, board member of the Beaufort Elementary School PTO.

They hope to have the center complete by the start of this school year.

Article credit- WNCT by Claire Curry, Mekaela Muck


That’s a wrap on the record-breaking 3rd Annual Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament, presented by Kurtis Chevrolet. Within three action-packed days of fishing, the fleet of 73 boats and 325 Anglers racked up an incredible 224 billfish releases – a new record for the Kids Tournament and possibly Morehead City. 220 of the 224 billfish were released by Jr. Anglers!

MARLIN FEVER stole the show with 16 Sailfish & 2 Blue marlin releases claiming 1st Place and the grand prize of $49,708.33 (Level I + Level II + Level III Thursday Release WTA). SKIRT CHASER scored 2nd Place with 3 Blue Marlin, and 7 Sailfish releases for a payout of $21,985. LABRADOR secured their 3rd Place spot with 1 Blue Marlin and 12 Sailfish releases worth $12,990.

DUE SOUTH started off strong today with a sailfish release at 9:23am capturing the Duke Energy First Release of the Day and $1,000 in prize money. Overall, the Due South Jr. Anglers released 1 Blue Marlin and 3 Sailfish winning the Daily Release Prize of $14,733.33.

OFFSHORE OUTLAW clinched 1st Place in the Dolphin division with their 17.6lb catch, earning the crew $18,360. SALLY GIRL landed in 2nd Place with a 13.3lb Dolphin taking home a payout of $12,240

APRIL MAE shook up the leaderboard today with their $49.4lb Wahoo, sliding into 1st Place and taking home $17,085. J&B moved into 2nd Place in the Wahoo division for the third year in a row! Their 48.7lb catch is worth $11,390 in prize money.

Thank you to all of the participants, sponsors, and supporters that made the 3rd Annual Big Rock Kids the most FINTASTIC yet!

SAVE THE DATE: July 10 – 13, 2024!


We have received the following statement from Sensation Sportfishing and we look forward to continuing the comradery, sportsmanship, and 65 year tradition of The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

“Reel Business Sportfishing, LLC d/b/a Sensation Sportfishing Charters, the owner of the fishing vessel SENSATION, withdraws its protest contesting the disqualification of the 619.4- pound blue marlin caught during the 2023 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament (“Tournament”).

After reviewing the Tournament Rules, the applicable laws and further examination of the blue marlin, we concluded that the Tournament properly applied the Tournament Rules and made the correct decision in disqualifying our 2023 Tournament catch.

We would like to congratulate the fishing vessel SUSHI on winning the Tournament with its 484.5-pound blue marlin. We look forward to fishing the 2024 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.”

– Sensation Sportfishing Charters

65th Annual Tournament Results

A record-breaking fleet of 271 boats competed for a purse of $5,835,075 in the 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, presented by Jarrett Bay Boatworks. SUSHI claimed the top prize of $2,769,437.5, after securing the Levels I, II, III, IV payout totaling $1,477,438 + the Super 20 division worth $1,292,000 for their 484.5lb Blue Marlin. Junior Angler, Carson Moser aboard CHASIN’ A claimed 2nd Place for his 463.7lb. Blue Marlin, earning his team $412,263. After a suspenseful week, C-STUDENT landed in 3rd Place with a 470.2lb. catch taking home $274,175.

OFFSHORE OUTLAW’S 67.7lb dolphin blew the competition out of the water in the Level I Weekly + Daily division, earning the team $7,000 overall. REEL LOVE weighed in the 2nd heaviest fish of the day at 42.25lbs taking a $1,000 payout. Unfortunately, OFFSHORE OUTLAW was not registered in the Parker Boats Level VII Dolphin WTA Division, so SKIP HOOK’s 59.3lb catch captured the prize worth $539,750.

DOUBLE B weighed a 70.5lb wahoo winning 1st Place overall and taking home $2,000 in daily prize money + an additional $5,000 for the week. HIT’N RUN slid into second place for the day weighing a 51.4lb wahoo worth $1,000. WELDOR’S ARK was able to maintain 2nd place for the week with their 59.7lb ‘hoo, earning the team a $5,000 payout.

The last day of the tournament saw a leaderboard overhaul in the Tuna Division. REEL PRIORITY claimed the Tuna Daily + Weekly Division prize worth a total of $7,000 for their 52.8lb. catch. ODYSSEY’s 52.5lb tuna squeezed into second place overall, earning the team $4,000.

The 63’ Jarrett Bay, MARLIN FEVER won the weekly Level VIII Release Division worth $133,875 + $44,625 (daily release prize money) taking home a grand total of $178,500. SAFARI captured the Day 6 release prize worth $44,625 for releasing 3 Blue Marlin. The team finished in second place for Level VIII, winning $124,950.

CITATION claimed the Level IX Non Sonar Release Division earning $96,687. BEST MEDICINE claimed the Day 6 release prize of $38,668 and an additional $58,012 for placing second in Level IX.

EL AZUL showed up and showed out, releasing 3 Blue Marlin and winning Level X + XI Outboard Divisions going home with $51,000, a new tournament record!

As the week comes to a close, we would like to thank our Participants, Sponsors, and Supporters for making the 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament the BEST Tournament in the WORLD.


Watch it all again! Download the Big Rock App, watch Big Rock TV.

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Official Statement From The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

The Big Rock Tournament
710 Evans Street, Morehead City, NC 28557
Phone: (252) 247-3575, Website:


OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE BIG ROCK BLUE MARLIN TOURNAMENT – After careful deliberation, it is determined that SENSATION’S 619.4lb Blue Marlin is disqualified.

MOREHEAD CITY, NORTH CAROLINA – June 18, 2023 — After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both NC State CMAST and a retired NC Marine Fisheries biologist as well as an IGFA official, it was determined that SENSATION’S 619.4lb Blue Marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal. It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated and therefore it was disqualified.

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament follows IGFA rules regarding mutilated fish as outlined in Rule #23 in the Big Rock Official Rules. IGFA rules state that the following situation will disqualify a fish: “Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh.”

This decision is consistent with prior decisions made by the tournament in similar circumstances over the last 65 years.

SUSHI has been declared the first-place winner of the 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament for their 484.5lb Blue Marlin. CHASIN A claimed second place with their 479.8lb. Blue Marlin. The  470.2lb blue marlin captured by C-STUDENT will finish in third place.

The Big Rock extends its sincere appreciation to the 271 Boats that participated in the record-breaking 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

To learn more about the IGFA rules regarding mutilated fish, visit the following website:


Contact: Crystal Hesmer, Big Rock Foundation Director,

$10 Raffle Could Win $20,000 for the Charity of Your Choice!
To celebrate the 65th Big Rock, The Big Rock Foundation will offer a raffle giveaway to charity in your hometown.

Morehead City, NC (May 16, 2023) – The Big Rock Board of Directors have added a $10 per ticket raffle this year for a chance to win $20,000 to a (501C3) charity of your choice in your own hometown. This is included as part of the 65th celebration and past successes of all three tournaments, Big Rock, KWLA and Big Rock Kids.

“Finding more ways to help people in their communities is what Big Rock is all about. I am pleased to be part of this new way to help others and can’t wait to see who the lucky charity will be”, commented Crystal Hesmer, Foundation Director.

“Big Rock in My Hometown was created for anyone who knows a need in their town, their community as a way they can make a difference in places Big Rock doesn’t normally get a chance to reach. Whether it is your local school, volunteer fire department or whatever is important to you, this will be your chance to make a difference. Big Rock was founded on “Charity First” and this is a way for everyone to capture the essence of what Big Rock Foundation is all about”, stated Tournament President, Emery Ivey.

Chances to win can be increased by sharing with family, friends, and co-workers since there is no limit to the number of tickets purchased. One winner will be selected via random drawing on Saturday June 17th at 3:00 P.M during Big Rock’s LIVE online broadcast. Tickets may only be purchased online at Raffle ticket proceeds benefit The Big Rock Foundation.

Through each tournament, The Big Rock Foundation raises funding for a multitude of charities throughout Carteret County and North Carolina. Additional funding for the Foundation includes Big Rock retail sales, private donations, endowments, Big Rock License Plate sales and various other fund raising throughout the year.


In 2022, Big Rock Foundation donated $1 million dollars to various charities. Those donations included:

-Broad Street Clinic $7,500
-Crystal Coast Hospice House $7,500
-East Carolina Boys Scout Council $7,500
-The History Place $7,500
-Hope Mission $7,500
-Martha’s Mission $7,500
-North Carolina State University, Research $10,000
-North Carolina Symphony-Carteret County $17,000
-Station Club/Easter Seals UPC $7,500
-The Big Rock Kids Billfish Tournament – Boys and Girls Club, $35,000
-The Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament – Carteret Healthcare, $25,000

-Arts Council of Carteret County, $10,000
-Beaufort Elementary School, $50,000
-Beaufort Middle School, $65,000
-Bogue Sound Elementary School, $78,000
-Bridge Down East, $60,000
-Carteret Preschool, $20,000
-Croatan High School Track and Field, $18,000
-Crystal Coast Cancer Rehabilitation, $10,000
-Delta Health Foundation, $10,000
-East Carteret High School Band, $50,000
-Gramercy Christian School, $30,000
-Hope is Alive Ministries, $50,000
-Mile of Hope Foundation, $5,000
-Military Appreciation Day, $10,000
-Misplaced Mutts, $5,000
-Morehead City Fire/EMS, $12,000
-Morehead City Little League, $47,000
-Morehead City Primary Schools, $55,000
-Newport Middle School, $40,000
-Tag-A-Giant- Tag Bluefin Tuna, $65,000
-The History Place, $143,000