The 50th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament reached its midpoint Wednesday with a huge increase in billfish activity, a new boat on the leader board and an early Father’s Day present for one of the captains.
The lady Lou V, captained by Paul Spencer of Mann’s Harbor, caught a 553.5-pound blue marlin that was heavy enough to take over third place in the standings. Artemis and Melina continue to lead the competition with their Monday catches. Artemis landed a blue marlin that weighed 640-pounds while Melina brought a 555.5-pounder to the scales.
Jose Valdes of San Juan, P.R., owner and angler of the Lady Lou V, hooked up 40 minutes into the start of fishing Wednesday and needed just 24 minutes to get his blue marlin to the boat. Once the catch was on board, the lady Lou V raced to the Big Rock scales, but missed second place by 2.5 pounds.
“We were hoping for a few more pounds, but it is what it is and we’re excited,” said Spencer, owner of Spencer Yachts, Inc. “When we built this boat for Juan, our first day in the ocean was in the (2005) Big Rock tournament. We caught a 500-pounder that year. It was kind of special for us.
“Since the boat was going to be up this way again this year we decided we’d get together and fish this tournament again. It seems like we made a good call.”
That was true in more ways than one.
Spencer didn’t want to fish Wednesday since conditions were so poor Tuesday. But Valdes wanted to fish the Big Rock four straight days in order to be back with his family in Puerto Rico by Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day.
Since there was hardly any bite Tuesday, Spencer wasn’t sure where to fish.
“To be very honest with you, I was at a loss,” Spencer said. “I’ve been fishing for a lot of years … up and down this piece of bottom. But I got chatting with my son (Daniel Spencer) and he wrote down some (coordinates) on a card and said `I’ve been fishing here,’ so I went there.”
The younger Spencer runs a boat called Sizzler out of Manteo. Sizzler held second place for a few hours Monday with a 458.5-pound blue marlin before larger ones were brought in.
Spencer’s early Father’s Day gift of a good fishing location put his Dad in position to win $168,860. That is, of course, if the Lady Lou V can stay in third three more days.
The “gift” hardly seemed like one when Spencer arrived at the coordinates given to him by his son.
“When I got there, I thought to myself ‘Gee, this water’s ugly’ … but I decided we’d fish it,” he said. “A few minutes later, we hooked a nice big fish. So, you never know. That’s fishing.”
Only 73 of 177 boats elected to fish Wednesday since fishing conditions looked more favorable at the end of the week. But the bite came back in a big way Wednesday morning as anglers released 17 blue marlins, five white marlins and four sailfish. There were also three billfish releases that did not count in the Big Rock total.
Bill Collector, captained by Steven Draughon, Morehead City, elected to go offshore Wednesday to “fun fish” during one of his two lay days. Bill Collector anglers released three blue marlins Wednesday, a total that would have temporarily put that boat in Big Rock billfish release lead.
Artemis, a Charleston, S.C. boat captained by David ‘Bucky’ Copleston, holds first place with a 640-pound blue marlin reeled in by Charleston angler Darryl Reyna. Reyna battled his catch for 3.5 hours and put the Artemis team in position to win $708,400 from the Big Rock’s $1,854,575 purse.
Melina angler David Yeager and captain William Frisch of Jupiter, Fla., brought a 555.5-pounder to the scales. Yeager fought his huge catch for 2.5 hours
Tuna Trappe III captain Brian Smith and angler John Lancaster, both of Wrightsville Beach, boated a 537-pound blue marlin Monday. Even though this fish was big enough to win two of the previous three Big Rocks, Tuna Trappe III got bumped off the leader board Wednesday by Lady Lou V.
But don’t shed a tear for Tuna Trappe III. It captured the Big Rock’s $386,750 prize for landing the first billfish weighing more than 500 pounds and moved into the release lead Wednesday with four releases for the tournament -- three blue marlins and a sailfish. Tuna Trappe III also won a daily wahoo prize Wednesday worth $1,161.67. At this point, Tuna Trappe III is in line to win $465,271.
Competition in the 50th Big Rock continues Thursday at 9 a.m.