When the first half of the 61stBig Rock Blue Marlin Tournament came to an end Wednesday, competitors were equally concerned with what had already happened as with what lay ahead.
When the tournament began Monday, seven blue marlins were landed and five of those spent time on the leaderboard. Since Monday, there have been no changes to the blue marlin division and Thursday looks like a lay day since high winds are building offshore.
Wolverine, captained by Rocky Hardison, Beaufort, maintained its lead halfway through the tourney with a 588.9-pound blue marlin that was landed Monday by angler Cory Ziegler. Donna Mae, captain Joe Webb, Anna Maria Island, Fla., holds down second place with a 569.9-pound blue marlin reeled in by angler James Luihn.
Sweetums captain Pete Rae, Plano, Tx., led the tournament 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 500-pounder in the tournament.
Sea Striker and Fender Bender brought blue marlins to the scales Tuesday but both catches missed making the leaderboard. Sea Striker was looking for its third Big Rock win but its blue marlin topped out at 500.2 pounds. Fender Bender’s blue marlin weighed 504.8
Even though this year’s leaders are not as big as winners in previous years, anglers are worried that it might hang on to win. Boat crews from 147-of-184 boats stayed in port Wednesday and a similar number are expected to follow suit Thursday. That means most of the fishing teams will have burned up both of their two required lay days and must fish out if they hope to win.
A storm system is expected to blow 15-to-25 knots throughout the day Thursday in the Big Rock fishing zone but much better weather is expected after that. The first two days of the competition were near perfect but nothing is certain for the next 72 hours.
Anglers managed to release only three blue marlin, two white marlin and one sailfish Wednesday. Annie O, captained by Brad Sutton, Raleigh, scored the first release of the day to win the $5,000 Gregory Poole first release prize.
Starflite, captained by Joey Johnson, Harkers Island, won the $47,104 Level VIII Daily release prize for the boat’s blue marlin release. Full Pull won the $47,104 prize Monday with two blue marlin releases. Drillin & Billin won the $47,104 prize Tuesday with three blue marlin releases.
So far, there have been 55 blue marlin, 26 white marlin and 14 sailfish releases tallied during the competition.
Big Rock officials confirmed the winner of the $6,100 special release prize for the 61st release of the tournament. After reviewing all data, Doc Fees, captain Taylor Pleasant, Wilmington, and his crew made the timely release.
Fishing continues Thursday morning at 9 a.m. Competitors in the 61st Big Rock are allowed to fish four-of-six 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.