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Wolverine maintains Big Rock lead

The 61stBig Rock Blue Marlin Tournament changed gears Tuesday, producing 49 billfish releases but no big changes to the overall standings.

Competitors brought just two blue marlins to the scales during the Big Rock’s second day. Just 24 hours earlier, seven blue marlins were boated and the three biggest catches set a high bar in the standings for the remainder of the competition.

Wolverine captain Rocky Hardison, Beaufort, is in first place with a 588.9-pound blue marlin landed Monday by angler Cory Ziegler. Ziegler’s catch bumped Sweetums, the tournament’s inaugural leader, to second place.

Sweetum captain Pete Rae of Plano, Tx., arrived at the scales with a 545.1-pound blue marlin to win the Level V Fabulous Fishermen prize of $531,250. Sweetums angler Scott DeWolfe, Plano, TX, reeled in his catch in 44 minutes.

Sweetums was later bumped to third place when Donna Mae captain James Luihn and angler Conner Pirrung, both of Vero Beach, Fla., arrived at the weigh station. Pirrung’s blue marlin tipped the scales at 569.9-pounds.

These three teams were understandably unnerved Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that Sea Striker had boated a blue marlin. Boat owner Adrian Holler, Morehead City, won the Big Rock in 1995 and 2001. Holler finished second in the Big Rock in 1986 when his 603-pounder was topped by a 608.5-pound blue marlin.

This by itself is enough to make a competitor’s skin leak … but there’s more.

Sea Striker’s angler Christian Bedsworth, Pine Knoll Shores, has more wins in his family than Holler. Bedsworth is the grandson of “Little George” Bedsworth, who won the Big Rock four times back when the tournament went by another name.

The remainder of the Sea Striker crew is a “Who’s Who” of fishing. Captain Pete Zook, Morehead City, comes from three generations of boat captains. Vince Johnson, Morehead City, won the Big Rock as an angler. Keith Henry, Atlantic Beach, captained the Miss Judy to an NC Governor’s Cup award.

If ever there was an all-star fishing team, this was it.

But the Monday Big Rock leaders dodged a bullet when Sea Striker’s catch topped out at 500.2 pounds. The Sea Striker had a big catch … but it wasn’t quite enough. 

“The calculations showed (our fish was) a little bit bigger,” Holler said after the weight was announced. “We had to take that chance (to forego 400 release points.)”

Fender Bender angler Greg Fulcher, Newport News, Va., landed the only other blue marlin during the second day of the 61stBig Rock. Fender Bender captain Carl Beale, Hampton, Va., and Fulcher teamed to bring in a 504.8-pounder … which was big enough to finish in the money last year … but not this year.

Releases dominated the second day as 161-of-184 boats battled 36 blue marlins, seven white marlins and six sailfish. So far, 51 blue marlin, 23 white marlin and 12 sailfish have been released.

Big Rock officials determined the winner of the $6,100 special release prize for the 61st release of the tournament. After confirming all data, Doc Fees, captain Taylor Pleasant, Wilmington, and his crew made the timely release.

Fishing continues Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Competitors in the 61stBig 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.

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