The Big One
by Billy Weaver

If you get a chance, head down to Morehead City in the late afternoon and check out the day's catch at the 48th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. I've been covering the event since coming back to eastern North Carolina in 1998 and I never get tired of seeing the "big one" hoisted onto the scale at Big Rock Landing.

I'm not a fisherman by any means so it always amazes me how a group of just a few guys (or girls) can reel in a fish weighing over 400 pounds. That's the minimum weight required for Blue Marlin caught in this year's tournament. As of right now the top fish in the competition was pulled in by the crew of Can Do Too, a boat based in New Jersey. Angler Sidney Gold reeled in a Blue weighing 451.5 pounds. If that fish holds atop the leaderboard through Saturday the crew of Can Do Too will take home the lion's share of nearly 1.6 million dollars in prize money. To be exact Gold, captain Jim Foy and the rest of the five man crew will split $766,412 in prize money if their catch wins first place. Not a bad chunk of change for a week of fishing!

I experienced a first on Tuesday when at about seven o'clock the boat Sensation out of Morehead City backed into Big Rock Landing with only the third Blue Marlin boated over the first two days of the event. When the fish was hoisted onto the scale, it was announced at 378 pounds. That's 22 pounds short of the minimum weight requirement. Any Blue Marlin boated during the tournament that does not weigh at least 400 pounds has to be measured at least 110 inches to avoid penalties. The fish brought in by the crew of Sensation was shorter than the required 110 inches.

Since Sensation boated an illegal Blue Marlin the crew was penalized 400 pounds off it's largest Blue and 400 points from accumulated release points. But that's not the kicker. The fish was only the third Blue Marlin caught in the tournament and was in line to claim a third place finish worth $183,565.

Of course with a few days left to fish and good weather on the horizon anything could happen but one things for sure, There's a whole lot of money involved in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and who can't excited about that.

By the way, for all you ECU Pirate fans out there, you have a boat to cheer for in this year's event. Bill Clark owns a boat in the tournament named First Down Pirates. If nothing else I'm sure there will be one heck of a party on board.

Billy Weaver