MOREHEAD CITY — The Big Rock Foundation broke out the giant checks and the lie detectors this past weekend as its 64th annual Blue Marlin Tournament officially came to a close. Two hundred sixty-six boats entered the contest this year, but only a handful could take home a piece of the record-breaking purse of more than $5.8 million.
And despite all the high-fives and hugs during Sunday’s award ceremony, most of the excitement took place earlier in the week. Of all the major prize-winning fish caught throughout the six-day tournament, all but one was hooked within the first three days of fishing. Any spectators who ventured down to Big Rock Landing on Monday would have witnessed all three of the heaviest blue marlins weighed this year.
Mercenaria, the 72-foot Viking from Cherrystone, Virginia, claimed the top spot on the leaderboard on Day 1 and held it all week. By weighing in its 572.6-pound blue marlin, Mercenaria was able to take home the top prize of more than $3.4 million, an industry record, after securing $777,750 in the Fabulous Fisherman’s division and the Super 20 division worth $1,156,000.
Wall Hanger’s lady angler, Stacy Allen, claimed second place with her 556.4-pound marlin, winning her team a $426,288 payout. The third-place prize of $283,525 went to High Yield for its 536.8-pound catch.
Catching the heaviest fish isn’t the only way to win prize money at the Big Rock Tournament. Safari, a 61-foot Garlington from Whiteville, took $187,707 worth of prize money for its success in the Level VIII Weekly Release division and daily releases.
Irene, a 62-foot Viking from Stuart, Florida, won $172,479 in overall prize money for its performance in the Level IX Non-Sonar Release division. Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot Contender from Sneads Ferry that won the 2020 Big Rock, went home with $42,500 for outperforming in the Outboard division.
The Big Rock Tournament isn’t just about catching billfish — participating boats can also win prize money for catching other game fish. Carolina Time caught a 54.1-pound dolphin in the WTA Division, winning $527,000. Speculator’s 104.7-pound wahoo earned it $5,000, and Desperado also won $5,000 for its 131.2-pound tuna.