Speed counts at 60th Big Rock

MOREHEAD CITY N.C. – As the first day of the 60thBig Rock Blue Marlin Tournament came to a close, competitors were talking about how quickly fortunes can change.

Wallhanger, captained by Gray Blount, Greenville, scored the first release of the day, edging Carterican by 10 seconds to win $5,000. Later, when Wallhanger’s blue marlin captured the Monday Level VIII daily release prize (it was the first of seven teams to score 400 release points) it added another $48,521 to the Wallhanger’s cash haul.

Crews from 114-of-183 boats went offshore to try to be first to land a big blue marlin. A record $2,560,925 purse is up for grabs, including $501,500 to the first Level V boat to land a blue marlin weighing 500 pounds or more.

When the fishing day ended, four boats were still hooked up and fighting large fish. Big Rock’s version of “overtime” looked as if it might go on for hours. Unfortunately, all fights reached a resolution by 3:24 p.m.

Gusty winds and rough seas made fishing conditions somewhat tough. The offshore “rock and roll” had an impact on the the results.

In the end, eight billfish, including six blue marlin, were hooked and released. Weather conditions are forecasted to change and that shift of barometric pressure should bring a better bite as the competition continues.

Competitors on 69 boat teams elected to exercise 1-of-2 required lay days Monday. This turned out to be a good call since no big blue marlins were boated.

On Point, owned by On Point LLC, won the inaugural 60thBig Rock Rolex watch drawing conducted shortly after the fishing day came to an end. Five other fishing teams have a shot to win a Rolex each day after lines are pulled from the water.

Even though there were no boated blue marlins, the 60thBig Rock became historic when the first day of competition kicked off the “Big Rock Big Hero” program. Members of the Big Rock Board of Directors wanted to honor the men and women who protect this nation. Active duty personnel were nominated to participate and six outstanding service members were selected to go offshore with competitors to get an unforgettable fishing experience. Three of the chosen servicemen took part in the opening day action.

“I can’t put (this experience) into words,” said Brad Ivey, a Staff Sergeant stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB. “It was just so great. I really hope others get a chance to take part in this program. I know I won’t ever forget it.”

Teaz’em boat captain Mark Barton, Greenville., was so impressed with Ivey he asked the serviceman to go offshore with his team again Saturday when Ivey’s off duty.

While Ivey’s team only managed to scare up gamefish, Petty Officer 2nd Class Bobby Whitehead experienced a long blue marlin fight on the Accordingly IV.”

“I started out in the back of the boat and (the blue marlin) was rooster tailing,” Whitehead said. “It was awesome. When we hooked it, everyone ran to their places. Besides my wife and kids, this was the best experience.”

Accordingly IV captain Peter DuBose, Morehead City, credited Whitehead with bringing the boat beginner’s luck since it was the first time the Navy serviceman had ever gone offshore fishing.

Other service members will get a chance later in the week when their duty schedule allows.

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. Fishing hours are from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., but fights started before the deadline continue until the hook-up reaches a resolution.