In the world of high-stakes blue marlin tournaments, sometimes local knowledge prevails, and a little luck never hurts. Both points held true during the 2017 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, a highlight of the summer fishing season in Morehead City, North Carolina. Local charter captain Brian Harrington and first mate Marty Hiatt, fishing aboard Run-Off, led angler Matt Hanley to his first-ever blue marlin, a 533.8-pounder. They led the event from start to finish, competing aboard the 46-foot Wesmac that’s docked just down the road from the Big Rock weigh-in.
The fish won $467,500 on the first day of the tournament because it was the first blue marlin over 500 pounds caught by a team entered in the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s Winner Take All division. Run-Off received an additional $693,950 for finishing in first place with the largest blue marlin of the tournament. Their total of $1,161,450 in prize money tops the previous Big Rock tournament record that was held by Capt. Adrian Holler, who won $942,100 in 2001 on Sea Striker.
Several other teams did well during the popular tournament. Rehab, a 48-foot Viking captained by Nathan Shepard, weighed a 506-pound blue marlin to finish in second place. The team’s catch brought them $250,720 in prize money. Weldor’s Ark, a 55-foot Jarrett Bay, was third with a 484.9-pound blue marlin, good for $166,480.
Good marlin fishing highlighted the week, with Sea Toy taking full advantage of the hot bite. The team won the release division with six blue marlin and one white marlin, resulting in a payout of $139,187 in prize money, in addition to a winner-take-all daily prize of $48,520. Uno Mas placed second with three blue marlin, one white marlin and one sailfish, winning $80,962 plus two daily prizes of $48,520 each. Marlin Fever tallied three blue marlin and two white marlin releases, good for third place and $53,975.
“This has been an amazing tournament,” said tournament director Crystal Hesmer, who has presided over the last 20 Big Rock tournaments. “We had a record purse, a record payout to the winning boat and record payouts to our release winners. It’s really amazing. Everyone competed hard and had a great time.”
For the tournament, the fleet tallied 160 billfish releases, including 78 blue marlin. Five blue marlin were brought to the scales.