The 60th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament got off to a slow start Monday, but fishing off the Crystal Coast heated up on Day 2.
A day after no blue marlins made it to the docks, the crew from Honey Hush out of Hatteras one-upped the South Carolina-based Game Changer with both boats putting fish on the scales on Tuesday.
Honey Hush angler Robert Gorrell landed a 518.5-pound blue marlin for the big catch of the tournament so far. Captained by Chuck Lidner, who said he’s been fishing the Big Rock for 42 years, the Honey Hush — a 61-foot Spencer — is the early leader. Unfortunately, the boat did not land the Winner-Take-All $501,500 bonus for the first 500-pound fish caught since it was not entered in Level V category.
“I’ve done it several years,” Gorrell said of fishing the Big Rock during a Facebook Live interview done by the tournament. “Finally bringing one to the dock — it’s an amazing feeling.”
Lidner echoed his angler’s statement.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “It’ll feel better on Saturday, though.”
The six-day tournament will end that day, with the boat boating the biggest qualifying blue marlin (at least 400 pounds or 110 inches) declared the winner. In the event of a tie by weight, “the marlin having the largest total measurement of girth plus length shall be declared the winner,” the official rules state.
The entire purse for this year’s Big Rock Tournament is more than $2.5 million.
The Game Changer, a 48-foot Viking, weighed in the first marlin of the tournament earlier Tuesday, with Michael Perry reeling in a 409.2-pound fish. Captain Geoff Rosenberry said it was his first time fishing the tournament.
“It’s the Super Bowl of the East Coast, for sure, for marlin fishing,” Perry, of Hilton Head, said of the Big Rock.
Last year, the crew of the Run-Off won the tournament with a 533.8-pound blue marlin caught on the tournament’s first day. In all, the Run-Off walked away with $1.16 million for the catch, bagging the $467,500 Winner-Take-All bonus and another $693,950 for taking first place in the tournament.
Day 1 was not without its successes.
Wallhanger, captained by Gray Blount of Morehead City, won more than $53,000 by catching the first release of the day to win $5,000 and winning the Level VIII daily release prize for $48,521.
The Eye Catcher, captained by Derek Jarrett, boated a 41.1-pound dolphin on Monday, reeled in by Bob Sinclair. Angler Van Jones caught a 19.9-pound wahoo on Monday as well on the Mark Chambers-captained Reel Country.
The 183-boat tournament will continue all week in Morehead City.