MOREHEAD CITY — One pound is all that separated the podium boats in the 62nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
The 35-foot Contender outboard Pelagic Hunter II of Sneads Ferry was the official winner of this year’s competition with a 495.2-pound blue marlin caught on Friday. Sea Striker of Morehead City came to the docks Saturday with the second-place fish weighing in at 495 pounds, and Predator of Hatteras was the third-place boat with a 494.2-pounder weighed on Monday.
There were two blue marlin brought to the docks Saturday for Day 6 of the competition – Double B also weighed a 419-pound fish – and a third from Moon Dancer was expected in the late afternoon, but the boat blew a fuel pump on the way back in and eventually conceded the tournament with estimations concluding its catch would not exceed 494.2 pounds.
The Pelagic Hunter II catch, brought in by Capt. John Cruise III and angler Riley Atkins, had the boat in line for a $239,837 payout from the Big Rock’s record $3.34 million purse. The boat was not registered in the high-dollar Level III or Level IV divisions, leaving substantial prizes on the table for other boats.
Second-place Sea Striker, with a fish brought in by two-time Big Rock winner Capt. Adrian Holler and angler Jon Henry, is in line to win $1.05 million in prizes. Henry is the brother of Double B Capt. Parker Henry. Their father, Keith, was also on the Sea Striker.
“You get out there and expect the best bite to come on,” Jon Henry said. “You wait and you wait and you wait for days, and then we got a good one. We weren’t sure if it would be as good as it was.”
Predator, which held the lead for four days with a catch brought in by Capt. Chris Barnett and angler Gene Olmo, was in line to win $$237,750 in prizes.
The second-biggest check of the tournament will go out to Lo Que Sea, the weekly release division leader with 2,250 points. The Ft. Pierce, Fla., boat, captained by Garrett Yarbrough, was already going to walk away with a tidy sum of $151,937 in weekly release prizes, in addition to the $47,813 it pocketed for the Tuesday daily release prize.
However, with no marlin weighing in at over 500 pounds, and the $552,500 Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s prize unclaimed, the boat entered in the Level V division with the most release points takes home the payout. That means Lo Que Sea is in line to win a whopping $752,250 in total prizes.
The bite was strong all week for blue marlin anglers, with 14 brought to the weigh station.
Those were Hatter-Done with a 488.1-pounder, Dancin’ Outlaw (470.4), Bill Collector (453.7), Hammer Time (450.2), Reel Steel (450), Catch 23 (442.3) and Double B (419). There were also marlin brought to the scales by Tail Gunner, Reel Country, Game Changer and April Mae, but all four failed to meet tournament minimum standards of 400 pounds or 110 inches in length.
Before Double B weighed its fish on Saturday, the distinction for smallest blue marlin on the leaderboard went to Catch 23, owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Release numbers remained strong all week, with the final tally showing a tournament-record 180 total releases. There were 25 on Saturday, helping to push this year’s total over the previous record of 172 set in 2007. Magic Moment claimed the daily release prize of $47,813 on Saturday with 1,200 points for the release of three blue marlin.
Sea I Sea finished in second place of the weekly release division with 1,600 points for the release of four blue marlin, earning it a payout of $91,162 in weekly release prizes. Post Call placed third with 1,325 points for the release of three blue marlin and one white marlin for a weekly release prize of $60,775.
Singularis lasted the week with the winning dolphin weighing 55.2 pounds reeled in by Zac Yarbrough on Tuesday. The hefty fish earned the boat a $395,250 payout.
Persistence held the division lead Monday with a 47.5-pound fish but finished in second, just ahead of a 46.2-pounder from Salt Lick.
C-Escape ran away with the heaviest wahoo division with a 75.2-pounder from angler Randy Britt to earn the boat $5,000 in prizes.
There were no tuna weighed throughout the week.