Artemis Holds Onto Big Rock Lead

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The second day of the 50th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament came and went with few changes to the leader board, a marked contrast to Monday when five blue marlins were weighed in and four different boats held the tournament lead.

A west wind appears to have knocked down the "bite" Tuesday morning as 118 of 177 boats headed offshore. Anglers were hoping to find more of the same success that Big Rockers experienced 24 hours earlier. They found little comparison between the two days.

While the Monday action appeared manic, Tuesday fishing seemed subdued. Anglers released 10 blue marlins, two white marlins and one sailfish, but the action produced none of the drama created just one day before.

The Tuesday slowdown left Artemis, a Charleston, S.C. boat captained by David ‘Bucky’ Copleston, in first place with a 640-pound blue marlin. Charleston angler Darryl Reyna battled his huge catch for 3.5 hours and put the Artemis crew in position to receive $708,400 from the Big Rock’s $1,854,575 purse.

Artemis – named after the Greek goddess of the Hunt – now becomes the hunted. Big Rock competitors have four more days to find a blue marlin that can top the defending S.C. Governor’s Cup champions.

One thing in their favor is a great weather forecast in the near future.

“We’re looking at better fishing conditions toward the end of the week,” said Randy Ramsey, who serves on the Big Rock board and handles all radio hook-up reports in and out of tournament headquarters. “Lots of boats stayed in port today and you’ll probably see more stay in tomorrow. Better sea temperatures and better sea conditions could mean a better bite later on.”

That would be amazing because the Monday bite was remarkable. Not only was the Artemis catch bigger than any of the four previous Big Rock winners, the second-place fish caught by Melina was large enough to win the tourney three of the past four years.

Melina, owned by William Burris of Moorestown, N.J., took the Big Rock lead Monday evening with a 555.5-pounder. Melina angler David Yeager and boat captain William Frisch brought their catch to the boat after a 2.5 hour fight

Melina's catch bumped Tuna Trappe III out of the top spot, but not before the Wrightsville Beach-based boat captured the Big Rock’s $386,750 prize for landing the first billfish weighing more than 500 pounds. Tuna Trappe III captain Brian Smith and angler John Lancaster, both of Wrightsville Beach, boated a 537-pound blue marlin, a fish big enough to win two of the previous three Big Rock events.

The Monday bite turned out to be bigger and better than any other fishing day in recent history. While there have been a few other times in the past 20 years when more than five blue marlins were brought to the scales in one day, none of those occasions featured blue marlin catches that were across-the–board as large as what the anglers caught Monday.

“Monday was great, but there are other great days ahead,” said Big Rock tournament director Crystal Watters. “We’ve still got a lot of fishing to do. The rest of the week is going to be very interesting.”

Even though the blue marlin bite was off, gamefish continued to go after bait.

Reel Deal, a Wake Forest-based boat captained by Jeff James, took over first place in the dolphin division with a 51.45-pound catch reeled in by angler James Adams of Wake Forest. The dolphin division also experienced a change in the runner-up position Tuesday after angler Tony Deibert, Morehead City showed up at the weigh station with a 47.4-pounder caught aboard Razorback Express, captained by Scott Wiggins.

The wahoo division lead changed Tuesday as well. The Clinton-based Galot 3, captained by Rock Wells, arrived at the scales with a 73.15-pound wahoo reeled in by David Elliot of Wake Forest. Elliot’s catch is nearly 30 pounds heavier than the fish that captured the Big Rock wahoo division last year.

Competition in the 50th Big Rock continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. Competitors on each boat fish 4-of-6 days and receive their winnings June 14th at the Big Rock awards ceremony.