Registrations continue for 61st Big Rock

Last year on this day, Justify captured the triple crown of horse racing and won $800,000 for winning the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.

That same day, Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament competitors were getting set to battle for $2,560,925.

Take a moment to let those numbers sink in.

The “Big” Rock could hardly be considered so in 1973. Tournament organizers had just adopted a new name for their blue marlin competition. The tournament entry fee was $75. First prize was $600. The event didn’t draw any national attention.

Meanwhile, up in New York, Secretariat won the 73 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. That marvelous horse ran 1.5 miles in 2 minutes and 24 seconds … a record to this day. Back then, the amount won by Secretariat ($90,120) dwarfed Big Rock prizes for years to come.

 But this would all change.

The Fabulous Fishing Club tournaments provided the Big Rock officials with a solid base to build upon. While the Belmont prize money grew 900 percent in 66 years, Big Rock board members, sponsors, participants and staff found a way to zoom past the Belmont purse.

It’s really hard for many to believe that this one-time fishing wager for $250 silver dollars grew into the  behemoth that it has become.

Next week, eight current service members are slated to go offshore on competitor boats. All were nominated to take part in the Big Rock Big Hero (BRBH) program, sponsored by Salt Life, which was developed to provide an unforgettable fishing experience for men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country. While the BRBH has become an integral part of the tournament, it has ties to 1973.

Back then, Lt. Col. Jerry Marvel fished and finished third with a 478-pound blue marlin. The 1973 tournament was dedicated in Marvel’s honor since he had just recently returned to North Carolina. His return to this area came after spending 1,846 days in a prison-of-war camp in North Vietnam.

As the 22ndKWLA tournament drew to an end, Big Rock registrations reached 101 boats entered in the six-day competition. Registration continues Saturday and Sunday. All registrations and upgrades cease at 9 A.M. Monday, the same time lines first go in the water.