MOREHEAD CITY — The 63rd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament leaderboard was shaken up Thursday with four blue marlin brought to the weigh station.
Outnumbered, a 65-foot Vikings from Wrightsville Beach, took control of second place with a 512.4-pound blue marlin reeled in by Billy Thompson.
The 51-foot Crown Marine from Oregon Inlet, Widespread, is in third place after Luke Pirrung reeled in a 479.2-pounder.
Natural still holds the lead with a 521.6-pound blue marlin boated on Tuesday. Capt. Carl Beale and angler Jonathan Fulcher teamed up to land the catch, which won the boat the instant Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of $828,750 and could win it $2.51 million of the tournament’s record $4.74 million purse if it holds the lead through the week.
The total blue marlin count tripled Thursday after just two were boated through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Day 4 of the competition was a busy one with 235 of the tournament’s 270 boats going offshore. Thirty-five boats took one of their required lay days.
There are only two days of fishing left in the tournament. Lines go in the water this morning at 9 a.m., and unhooked lines must come out at 3 p.m. On Saturday, the fishing window moves to 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The bite on Thursday was active from start to finish. Widespread showed up at the scale at 7 p.m., but the first boat to arrive on the day was Dancin Outlaw at 1 p.m. The 56-foot C&L from Summerfield weighed a respectable 419.3-pound fish that, at the time, was good enough for third place as just the third blue marlin boated this week.
“It was my mate’s first pitch off the teaser, and I’d say it was a pretty good one,” Capt. Joey Rivenbark said. “He did an excellent job of hooking the fish. It came in hot, and it was pretty quick.”
He added, “We knew it was going to be close, but there not being a third-place boat, we made the right call.”
Unfortunately for Rivenbark and angler Dean Priddy, Big Rock Radio operator Randy Ramsey reported a few hours later that Anticipation from Virginia Beach and Outnumbered were en route to the scale with fish boated four minutes apart.
Outnumbered arrived first, backing into the weigh station slip to an excited crowd. The crew knew it had landed an exceptional fish, and sure enough, the weight was enough for second place behind Natural’s leading 521.6-pound blue marlin. The catch could be worth $453,063 in prizes if it holds the spot for two more days.
Thompson was energetic when he described his feelings after the weight was announced.
“I love being here,” he said. “It’s my second time. The fishing was fantastic. We had a great captain. He put us right on the fish, and all I had to was reel it in. It’s a fantastic feeling.”
The owner of the boat, Kevin Summerville, gave the crowd a laugh with an anecdote to explain the name of the boat.
“I grew up with three sisters, and I’ve got three daughters,” he said, “so the description of my life is outnumbered by females. That’s why it’s called the Outnumbered.”
Capt. James Breen was happy with the catch, but he acknowledged the slow bite this week.
“It has been a little discouraging the past few days,” he said. “The fishing has been a little slower. This kind of came out of nowhere.”
Anticipation came to the scale next, but the Harvey Shiflet-captained 61-foot Spencer Yacht produced a 446.8-pounder. It was only 2 pounds off Following Seas’ third-place fish of 448.8 pounds, but Widespread wound up
ending Anticipation’s brief stint on the leaderboard.
Widespread, captained by Jay Watson, brought the Pirrung family to the scale for the second time in three years. Connor Pirrung, Luke’s older brother, weighed a 569.9-pound blue marlin off Donna Mae in 2019.
Luke Pirrung was in the cabin when the 479.2-pound blue marlin was hooked on Thursday.
“I was inside the boat watching the U.S. Open and everything was going wild outside,” he said. “I ran out there, and they yelled at me to get in the chair. I know why they call it a fighting chair. It was a battle.”
The younger Pirrung’s catch could be worth $301,375 in third-place prizes.
Wave Paver of Port Canaveral, Fla., grabbed the weekly release lead on Thursday and now has 925 points for the release of two blue marlin and a white marlin. The weekly release prize for the week is $207,188.
There were 28 billfish releases on Thursday, including 12 blue marlin, 10 white marlin and 6 sailfish. That brings the weekly total to 101 with 58 blue marlin, 29 white marlin and 14 sailfish.
The Winner Take All Dolphin Division saw a major shakeup on Thursday when Fin Print brought in a 48.3-pounder. The catch by Capt. Emery Ivey and angler John Seegars supplanted a three-day lead for Low Profile’s 41.4-pound catch and could win the boat $529,125 if it holds the lead.
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 took the lead on Thursday with 525 points and stands to win $15,725 if its lead lasts the week.