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Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

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Capt. Robert Hollingsworth and the crew of the "Flybouy," out of Charleston, SC, took first place in the 54th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament with this 499.3 lb. fish. Todd Baxley battled the big marlin to the boat on Monday, June 11, the event's first fishing day.

Talk about a wing and a prayer.

“Flybuoy,” captained by Robert Hollingsworth of Charleston, SC, flew through the week atop the 54th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament leader board with a 499.3 lb. blue marlin caught Monday by Todd Baxley. “Flybuoy” (pronounced “fly-boo-wee”) landed in first place to win $494,710.

Fans pulling for the “Inspiration” fishing team had their prayers answered as big blue marlins continued to be elusive on the final day. “Inspiration” captain Casey Wagner, Morehead City, and angler Terry Clark, Beaufort, landed a 437.7 lb. blue marlin Tuesday that proved big enough to finish in second place. Wagner, the current president of the Big Rock, had been to the weigh station eight previous times with a blue marlin and never before finished in the money. The ninth time proved to be a charm as Wagner receives $212,640 for his second-place finish.

As the 54th Big Rock entered its final day, “Flybuoy” owner Gary Davis and crew were still winging along in first place. However, the billfish bite took off early Saturday and it appeared that their week-long lead would fly away. Anglers recorded two blue marlin catches in the first 76 minutes of fishing, and it looked as if the blue marlin standings were destined to change.

The “Can Do Too,” a boat captained by Jim Foy of Brielle, NJ, and “Fishing Partner,” captained by Daryl Brower, Morehead City, arrived at the scales with blue marlins that met federal requirements but neither fish met stringent tournament minimums of 400 pounds or 110 inches in lower jaw fork length. Both catches failed to qualify for prize money.

The 54th Big Rock finished with 83 billfish releases (43 blue marlin, 34 white marlin, two hatchet marlin, and four sailfish) and just four boated blues for a 95 percent release rate. The tournament experienced a tremendous bite in the first half of the event, but this was interrupted for two days when a Nor’easter churned through the Big Rock’s fishing grounds.

While the “Flybuoy” blue marlin is smaller than all but two Big Rock winners in the past 22 years, it’s bigger than all but one of the winners in the 60’s. Flybuoy missed the $246,500 Level VI Fabulous Fisherman’s prize by 7/10ths of a pounds, and it is estimated its blue marlin lost several pounds in the hot sun between “Flybuoy’s” take off from the Big Rock fishing grounds until its arrival at the weigh station. Since no boat landed a blue marlin that weighed a minimum of 500 lbs., 100% of the entry fees for that level will be returned to the competing contestants.

“Release,” captained by Rom Whitaker of Hatteras, released two blue marlins Saturday to come from behind and win his second consecutive overall billfish release prize. Whitaker captured the 2011 Big Rock overall release prize with 1050 points for seven billfish releases and topped that this year with 1700 points for four white marlin and three blue marlin releases. Whitaker also won two daily release prizes, the final coming Saturday for two blue marlin releases, to reel in prizes totaling $59,427.20.

Morehead City charter boat “Dancin’ Outlaw,” captained by Thomas Wood, was bumped to second place in the billfish release division standings when “Release” finished strong. “Dancin’ Outlaw” totaled 1,200 points for catching and releasing three blue marlin and won prizes totaling $34,564.80.

“Double 07,” captained by Freddie Brittington, Beaufort, placed third in the overall release division with three blue marlin releases (after “Dancin’ Outlaw”). “Double 07” also scored 1,200 points and won a daily release prize and a daily release runner-up prize to capture $28,500.80.

There was just one change to the overall gamefish standings Saturday, but it was a big one. “Accordingly III,” captained by Peter DuBose, Morehead City, showed up at the scales with a 32.9-pound dolphin reeled in by Todd Smith, Cedar Point, to win the $77,350 in the Dolphin Winner Take All division. “Accordingly III” also finished second overall dolphin standings to rake in another $3,116.67.

“Can Do Too” captured the dolphin division with a 41.3 lb. caught by Sid Gold of Stewart, FL, but the “Can Do Too” crew did not elect to enter the winner take all level and did not qualify for that prize. “Can Do Too” won $4,675 for winning the dolphin division and a $779.17 daily dolphin prize.

“Impulse” finished first in the wahoo division with a 53.1-pounder landed Monday by Cary angler John Elmo. The “Miss Peggy Sue” came in second place with a 36.3 lb. wahoo reeled in Monday by David Heeter of Spencer, WV.

“Sensation” finished as the only boat to land a tuna in the past two years. The 56.8 lb. yellowfin tuna reeled in Tuesday by Walt Hooks of Wilson earned the team a tuna prize consisting of monies from both tournament tuna purses that total approximately $34,000.