Run-Off Wins 2017 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

Local team sets a new record for the largest cash prize in the tournament’s history

2017 big rock blue marlin tournament winning team run off
Capt. Brian Harrington and the Run-Off team, big winners in this year's Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

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.

2017 big rock blue marlin tournament victory celebration
Surrounded by family and friends, Harrington and company celebrate once their victory was announced on the final day of the tournament.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

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.

2017 big rock blue marlin tournament rehab second place team
Rehab offloads their second-place blue marlin at the weigh-in.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament weldor's ark third place
John Roberts and Capt. Mike Taylor put Weldor's Ark into third place overall.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament bull tolson sea toy
Capt. Bull Tolson and the Sea Toy team topped the release division standings.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament largest mahimahi islander team
The Islander team was handsomely rewarded for their largest mahimahi of the tournament.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament heavy tackle
Chasing big blue marlin demands heavy tackle.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament spectators
Spectators lined the waterfront each day for a glimpse of the action.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament child with mahimahi
For many spectators like this young girl, it was their first time seeing fish like this mahimahi in person.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
2017 big rock blue marlin tournament weigh in
The Big Rock Landing in Morehead City, North Carolina is one of the most iconic tournament sites in sport fishing.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament