MOREHEAD CITY — The Big Rock weigh station got its second blue marlin from a Pirrung brother this week during a leaderboard-shaking Friday night.
The Oregon Inlet boat stole first place in the 63rd annual tournament with a 656.5-pound blue marlin reeled in by Cole Pirrung.
Widespread was one of four boats still hooked up when lines came out of the water at 3 p.m. When the announcement came in the evening that the 51-foot Crown Marine had boated a blue, the same question was on everyone’s mind. Why would the third-place boat bring in a fish if it wasn’t considerably bigger than the 479.2-pounder it weighed just the day before?
The excitement was justified when Capt. Jay Watson backed the boat into the weigh station at 10:30 p.m. to an eager waiting crowd. As soon as the boat’s crew and onlookers heard “6” slip out of weighmaster Randy Gregory’s mouth, cheers rang out.
Nineteen-year-old angler Cole Pirrung beamed as he stood next to his hefty catch. Pirrung and his brothers, Luke and Connor, are Big Rock legends now as the only set of three brothers who have all brought blue marlin to the weigh station.
Luke weighed a 479.2-pound catch on Thursday to put Widespread in third place on the leaderboard. In 2019, Connor weighed a 569.9-pounder aboard Donna Mae.
“I feel a little bad knocking (Luke) out of third, but not too bad to be honest,” Cole Pirrung said.
Luke’s catch had Widespread in line to win $301,375 for third place. Cole’s catch, if it holds through today, will win it a handsome $1,677,188 instead.
Cole credited his dad for injecting some energy into what had so far been a disappointing day of fishing for the boat.
“My dad came into the salon and said, ‘We need to change our luck,” he said. “He said, ‘Everyone get up and get fired up.’ Ten minutes later, the fish came up on the left shore. It’s a little hard to believe, but there’s another day of fishing. Right now, we’re stuck with wishful thinking.”
Cole fought the fish for nearly four hours before boating it shortly before 6 p.m. The Hatteras-ported boat was fishing along the northern end of of the Big Rock boundary and needed more than four hours to make the journey back to Morehead City.
“I’m a little bit in shock,” Cole said. “My body doesn’t feel much right now, but I’m sure tomorrow will be some aches and pains. It’s worth it, I feel like.”
After fishing on Thursday with only one day of their four days of fishing left, father David was hoping to take Friday off.
“When we left here last night, we were just thinking about getting some food and getting some sleep,” he noted. “The captain said we were going out again, and we listen to the captain. Glad we did.”
Widespread’s bigger catch knocked its smaller catch off the leaderboard altogether. Instead, Natural takes over second with a 521.6-pound blue marlin reeled in by angler Jonathan Fulcher and Capt. Carl Beale. The Beaufort boat had already won the Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of $828,750 on Tuesday for boating the tournament’s first blue marlin weighing at least 500 pounds. With the $453,063 second-place prize, Natural stands to win a total $1,281,813 payout.
Outnumbered of Wrightsville Beach is the new third-place boat with a 512.4-pound blue marlin pulled in by angler Billy Thompson. The James Breen-captained boat will go home with a $301,375 payout if it holds the spot through today.
There have been seven total blue marlin brought to the weigh station this week, including a 448.8-pounder off Following Seas, a 446.8-pounder off Anticipation and a 419.3-pounder off Dancin Outlaw.
The leaderboard could still a shakeup today, but offshore conditions are iffy. The weather on Friday was favorable, prompting 260 of the tournament’s 270 boats to venture offshore.
Today is the last day of the tournament. Lines go in the water at 8 a.m. and unhooked lines come out at 2 p.m.
Wave Paver of Port Canaveral, Fla. grabbed the weekly release lead on Thursday and still owns it with 925 points for the release of two blue marlin and a white marlin. The weekly release prize is $207,188.
The bite was red-hot on Friday with 38 billfish releases, including 26 blue marlin, 10 white marlin and two sailfish. That brings the weekly total to 139 with 84 blue marlin, 39 white marlin and 16 sailfish.
Fin Print still leads the Winner Take All Dolphin division with a 48.3-pounder caught by angler John Seegars. The boat, captained by Emery Ivey, stands to win $529,125 if it holds the lead for one more day.
Reel Quick still holds the wahoo division lead with a 66.1-pound fish reeled in by Lisa Merriam on Wednesday.
Bill Collector brought in the tournament’s biggest tuna on Monday, a 52.3-pounder caught by Mike Casey.
In the outboard division, 2020 Big Rock winner Pelagic Hunter II holds the lead with 525 points and stands to win $15,725 if it lasts the week.