Big Rock heads to shoot-out

It’s official – the 61stannual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament has become a one-day shootout.

The Big Rock went full swing Friday as 172-of-184 boats headed offshore one day after 183 boats stayed in port. While it was nice onshore, conditions in the fishing zone were rough until the final two hours of the day.

Dropped Call, captained by Junior Johnson, Newport, boated the only blue marlin of the day and then experienced engine trouble on the way back to port. Dropped Call’s blue marlin, reeled in by Jason Wright, Wilmington, Del., tipped the scales at 524.7 pounds. Dropped Call’s catch was a disconnect from the leaderboard, coming up 21 pounds short of what was needed to dial up a spot in the standings.

That means the tournament heads into the final day with no blue marlin leaderboard changes since Monday. Wolverine captain Rocky Hardison, Beaufort, maintained his lead with the 588.9-pound blue marlin reeled Monday by angler Cory Ziegler. Donna Mae, captained by Joe Webb, Anna Maria Island, Fla., holds second place with a 569.9-pound blue marlin hauled in by angler James Luihn.

Sweetums captain Pete Rae, Plano, Tx., led the 61stBig Rock initially with a 545.1-pound blue marlin caught by Scott DeWolf. Sweetums captured the Level V Fabulous Fishermen prize of $531,250 for being the first boat to land a blue marlin that weighed at least 500 pounds.

Anglers tallied 12 blue marlin, nine white marlin and two sailfish releases Friday. For a while, it looked as if several boats might bring blue marlin catches to the scales.

Mama Love and 18 Reeler took their fights to overtime. After a five-hour battle, there was no love for Mama Love as its fish got away. Competitors on the 18-Reeler trucked back to port empty handed, too, after suffering a pulled hook that brought an end to a 50-minute fight.

Two Big Rock Big Hero (BRBH) anglers were honored Friday when they arrived at the scales to weigh the dolphins they caught offshore. Lt. Col. Scott White, US Army, who has served 20+ years, reeled in a 7.7-pound dolphin aboard Builder’s Choice. Staff Sgt. Dean Smith, U.S. Army, who has served 12 years, caught an 18.0-pound dolphin on the El Cazadore.

BRBH anglers are nominated, vetted and selected for the program. BRBH anglers are provided with an experience of a lifetime after giving so much to this country.

 Big Rock artist Steve Goione created special artwork to commemorate the eight BRBH anglers chosen to fish in this year’s Big Rock. The crowd at the weight station cheered both BRBH anglers as they received the Goione’s artwork and other gifts proved by Big Rock, Salt Life and other tournament sponsors.  

 The 61stBig Rock has been hard to figure out. A midweek storm played havoc with the fishing zone, but perfect offshore conditions are projected to be back Saturday. The bite was consistent Friday despite the rough conditions. It’s a sign that predatory fish are on the feed.

The wildest catch of the day was a 145.1-pound tuna, believed to be the largest tuna ever caught during a Big Rock competition. Predator angler Wayne Wray and captain Chris Barnett, Frisco, teamed to reel in the huge gamefish after a 15-minute fight. Wray’s catch was just the third tuna caught in the last four Big Rocks.

Through Friday, there have been 67 blue marlin, 35 white marlin and 16 sailfish releases tallied during the Big Rock. Doc Fees, captained by Taylor Pleasant, Wilmington, and his crew scored the 61strelease of the 61stBig Rock to win the tournament’s special $6,100 prize.

During Thursday fishing hours, no boat qualified for the Level VIII Daily Release Winner Take All (WTA) Thursday prize of $47,104. All that money rolled to the other days, increasing the daily release WTA payout to $56,525.

Fishing continues Saturday with 182-of-184 boats eligible to fish the final day. Competitors are allowed to fish four-of-six days and only one boat is fished out entering the final six hours of fishing.Fishing hours Saturday are from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Any fight that starts before the end-of-day deadline can continue until the hook-up reaches a resolution.