Small Boat, Big Rock

Center-console wins the prestigious East Coast tournament

Team Pelagic Hunter II with their winning blue marlin.Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

The 62nd Annual Big Rock Tournament wrapped up with a few surprises and a stunning finish for one fortunate team. With 205 boats and a cash purse of $3,352,475, it was certainly a memorable one for all involved.

Capt. John Cruise III, fishing aboard Pelagic Hunter II, his Suzuki-powered Contender 35T based in nearby Snead’s Ferry, North Carolina, led his team of Riley Adkins, Norman Bowen and Kyle Kirkpatrick to a 495.2-pound blue marlin, winning not just the outboard division, but incredibly topping the fleet with the largest marlin of the tournament as well. And while his crew is accustomed to heavy-tackle bluefin tuna fishing, this was their first foray into blue marlin as well as their first tournament.

“We blew a power-steering line on Monday,” Cruise said, “and had to jump through hoops just to be able to fish Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, we pulled the hook on a nice blue, and we were just on cloud nine to have a big fish on.” Three days later, they returned to the same area of blended blue-green water in 1,400 feet, deployed the same Moldcraft Super Chugger that had produced for them earlier in the week, and went back to work. At 10:27 a.m., they hooked the eventual tournament winner, boating the fish after a fight lasting roughly two hours for Adkins. For first place overall and top outboard boat, the team won $223,263.

In second place was two-time Big Rock winner, Capt. Adrian Holler, aboard the 61-foot Jarrett Bay, Sea Striker. Falling just two-tenths of a pound short of the win, Holler and company weighed a 495-pound blue marlin but walked away with $1,056,138, thanks to their participation in the optional jackpots. Finishing third was Predator with a 494.2-pound blue marlin, worth $273,750. Less than 1 pound separated first place from third.

There were no fish over 500 pounds landed during the week, which meant that the Level V jackpot went to the top release team. Lo Que Sea, a 58-foot Paul Mann owned by Tony Huerta and captained by Garrett Yarborough, earned a total of $704,437 for releasing four blue marlin and two sailfish during the week. The team aboard Singularis also scored big for their largest dolphin of the tournament, a 55.2-pounder worth $400,250. In this year’s Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, there were 185 billfish released: 144 blue marlin, 22 white ­marlin and 19 sailfish, with a release rate of 93 percent.