Junior anglers shine at Big Rock

MOREHEAD CITY N.C. – Rare Breed managed two rare feats Wednesday when it grabbed a spot on the 60th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament leaderboard by the narrowest of margins with the youngest of anglers.

Rare Breed angler E.J. Nettles, Charleston, fought a 400.4-pound blue marlin for 32 minutes before the decision was made to take the fish. Nettles, 16, has fished competitively before, but this was the first time he landed a blue marlin in competition. He is believed to be the first junior angler to land a blue marlin big enough to make the Big Rock leaderboard.

“To do something like this, to bring a fish to the scales during the Big Rock is pretty amazing,” Nettles said when told about his rare feat. “I fished up in Virginia Beach last year but this is pretty special. To put our team on the leaderboard for that much money … that’s exciting.”

A second junior angler shared center stage Wednesday when Job Site angler William Farrior, 16, reeled in a 32.7-pound dolphin. Farrior’s catch held on to win the $2,000 daily prize for the largest dolphin catch of the day.

Breed captain Bubba Simmons, Mt. Pleasant, SC, was surprised his angler’s catch almost didn’t make the leaderboard. Simmons measured the fish at 108 inches and figured there would be no problem making the 400-pound minimum set by Big Rock rules.

He was right … by just under half a pound.

“Wow … it was close … we thought the fish was bigger than that,” Simmons said. “We had it right at 108 (inches in lower jaw fork length measurement) and calculated 485 (pounds) or maybe 500 … but it was too skinny.”

But not too skinny to make the Big Rock leaderboard.

Nettles catch is currently worth $174,300 if there are no changes to the leaderboard in the final half of the competition.

Honey Hush, captained by Chuck Lindner, Morehead City, grabbed the Big Rock lead Tuesday with a 518.5-pounder reeled in by angler Robert Gorrell. Honey Hush is in position to win $753,875 from the Big Rock’s record $2,560,925 purse if it can hold onto the tournament lead through the final three days of fishing.

Game Changer, captained by Geoff Rosenberry, Bluffton, SC, took the tournament’s inaugural lead Tuesday with a 409.2-pound blue marlin reeled in by angler Michael Perry. The Game Changer catch is worth $262,400 if they can stay in second place.

Desperado, captained by Bryan Peele, Virginia Beach, tallied the first release of the day to win $5,000. Coverage, captained by Hunter Blount, Greenville, was first to score 925 release points with the release of two blue marlins and a sailfish to win the Wednesday Level VIII daily release of prize $48,521.

Crews from 152-of-183 boats went offshore Wednesday to try to be first to land a big blue marlin. The Big Rock’s Level V prize of $501,500 is still up for grabs because no boat entered in that category has been able to scare up a big fish.

All competitors are hopeful since the bite has definitely improved. Indicators lean toward even better conditions as the 60th Big Rock enters its second half.

As the tournament moved toward its midpoint, release numbers nearly doubled what had taken place in the previous two days. Anglers finished Wednesday fishing with the release of 31 blue marlins, 11 white marlins, 3 sailfish and 1 hatchet marlin along with one boated blue.

Fin Print, a boat owned by Doghouse at Sea, LLC, New Bern, won the third 60th Big Rock Rolex watch drawing conducted after the third fishing day came to an end. The watch was presented to Fin Print captain Ralph Griffin, a seasoned Big Rock competitor who was the winning captain aboard Chainlink back in 2006. As Griffin received his new watch, two AV-8C Harrier aircraft flew over the Big Rock weigh station. It was a special fly-over on the part of the USMC to help commemorate the 60th Big Rock and its support of active duty personnel through the Big Rock Big Hero program.

Three more fishing teams have a shot to win a Rolex Submariner each day after lines are pulled from the water.

Competitors in the 60 th Big Rock 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 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., except Saturday when the fishing hours are 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.