MOREHEAD CITY N.C. – As the final minutes ticked away before the start of the 60th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, event officials shared knowing nods and well wishes since 183 boats had signed up to compete and a record purse of $2,560,925 would be up for grabs.
The purse for the 60th Big Rock reach historic heights late Sunday as more teams arrived in the area. Nine boats signed up during the pre-tournament dinner just hours before the six-day competition was set to begin. An upgrade received before the 9 a.m. Monday deadline set the final purse total.
This year, the first boat to the Big Rock scales with a blue marlin that weighs at least 500 pounds will win $501,500 if it is entered in the Level V “Winner Take All” category. If that catch stands up to win the tournament (and the boat was entered in all levels) the total prize money jumps to $1,255,375!
Because of blustery offshore conditions, 69 boats elected to use one-of-two mandatory lay days on the 60th Big Rock’s opener. More than half (37) of the 69 boats that elected to stay in port Monday are entered in the Level V category.
How this decision plays out will be the big story on opening day. Over the past six years, five eventual champions caught their winning blue marlin during Monday fishing hours.
The 60th Big Rock is special in many ways. To commemorate the event, Big Rock Board of Directors voted to honor the men and women who protect this great nation.
Active duty personnel were nominated to participate in the “Big Rock Big Hero” program and six outstanding service members were selected to go offshore with competitors to get an unforgettable fishing experience. That offshore experience begins Monday on the first day of competition.
“The selected service members have dedicated their lives and made immeasurable sacrifices for our freedom,” Hesmer said. “This is just a small way of showing our appreciation.”
In addition to the “Big Rock Big Hero” project, all competing teams have a chance to win one of six specially designed Rolex watches the were created to commemorate the 60thBig Rock. One watch will be awarded via drawing to a different team each fishing day shortly after lines come out of the water. Six different teams will experience a very unique thrill of victory as competitors begin the long run in from the Gulf Stream fishing zone.
Last year, Run Off ran off to victory in the 59thBig Rock. Run Off captain Brian Harrington, Morehead City, and angler Matt Hanley of Glen Allen, VA, teamed to catch a 533.8-pound blue marlin on the tournament’s opening day. Run Off mate Marty Hiatt, Morehead City, helped Harrington and Hanley score their wire-to-wire victory with timely support that yielded a cash payout of $1,161,450 from the record purse.
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. Artemis, a boat based out of Charleston, S.C., took top honors 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 50thBig Rock.
Artemis received $703,512.50 from the $1,854,575 purse. Fifty years earlier, the first prize had been 250 silver dollars.
Competitors in the 60th 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 IV 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 since 5-of-6 past champions have caught their winning blue marlin on Monday.