By Bruce Paul, www.thebigrock.com
Top Dog became “Top of the World” Saturday when it landed a record-breaking 914-pound blue marlin to win the 61stannual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament.
Top Dog captain Ryan Knapp of Ocean City, Md., and angler Todd Dickerson, Damascus, Md., fought their catch for more than five hours and then needed an additional 90 minutes to get the 15-foot fish partially into their 60-foot Buddy Cannady. Dickerson’s catch crushed the Big Rock’s previous record of 831 pounds set in 2000 by the Summertime Blues.
The whole crew and all the fans at the weigh station let out a mighty howl when the weight of the fish was announced to the crowd. The crew was dog tired, the catch looked a bit dog-eared after being squeezed through a tuna door but, doggone, it was a heckuva catch.
Top Dog won $793,188 from the Big Rock’s record $2,869,150 purse.
The 61stBig Rock took a surreal turn on the final day of the tournament when five boats sent the tournament into overtime. It was the second straight year Saturday fishing showed some craziness as the winners weren’t completely determined until just before midnight.
One blue marlin was boated and five boats were still battling blue marlin at the final day 2 p.m. cutoff. Since Big Rock rules allow fights to continue until a resolution (boated, released or lost), four of the five boats battled long past the normal deadline.
Triple S was the first to the scales with a 429.3-pound blue marlin landed by the husband-wife team of Todd and Shelly Smith of Newport. The Smiths brought their catch to gaff after a 42-minute fight.
Double B and Theresa Jean – the first of the overtime boats to resolve their fights – followed with larger catches. The Double B, captained by Harry Smith, Greenville, and angler Brooke Smith, Greenville, brought a 497.6-pound blue marlin to the scales after a 67-minute fight.
Then the drama began. Theresa Jean — a boat that battled two blue marlins at the same time for several hours – showed up at the weight station with a 582.1-pound blue marlin to take over second place in the overall standings. Theresa Jean captain John Tomasini, Thurmont, Md., and angler Ryan McKenzie teamed to land their blue marlin in six hours.
The Theresa Jean catch caused the first change on the leaderboard since Monday afternoon. Sweetums captained by Pete Rae, Plano, Tx., was the inaugural leader of the 61stBig Rock with a 545.1-pound blue marlin caught by Scott DeWolf. Sweetums captured the Level V Fabulous Fishermen prize of $531,250 for being the first boat to land a blue marlin that weighed at least 500 pounds. The Theresa Jean catch bumped Sweetum off the leaderboard.
Throughout the week, Wolverine was bulletproof and managed to stay atop the leaderboard. Wolverine captain Rocky Hardison, Beaufort, and angler Cory Zeigler teamed to catch a 588.9-pound blue marlin on opening day and maintained their lead through 2 p.m. Saturday … the usual celebration time.
But this was the year of the Dog.
A final weigh-in at 10:55 p.m. put the contest in concrete. Wall Hanger, captained by Gray Blount, Greenville, nearly caused a final leaderboard shake-up with a 569.5-pound blue marlin landed by angler Brian Allen, Raleigh. But Allen’s catch came close … but it weighed less than the 569.9-pounder reeled in by Donna Mae angler James Luihn. The close-call finish in third place was worth $192,575 for the Donna Mae crew.
Wolverine finished in second place and captured $289,863 from the Big Rock purse. Hardison, who was the mate of the Big Rock winner in 1996, came as close to a second victory as you can come.
Annie O, a boat captained by Brad Sutton, Raleigh, won $147,375 for the most release points (1,850) scored during the tournament. Annie O captured a daily and the overall release category with four blue marlin, one white marlin, and a sailfish release.
Drillin & Billin, a boat captained by Lee Martin, Wanchese, finished second in the release division with 1,600 release points. Drillin & Billin released four blue marlins to earn $141,950 in overall and daily “winner take all” (WTA) prizes.
Full Pull, captained by Ryan Riggs, N. Charleston, S.C., won a release WTA prize and finished third in the release division with 1200 release points for three blue marlin releases to win $113,475. Crews from Starflite, Viking 80, and Goombay all won $56,525 in the daily WTA release competitions.
Job Site, captained by Bill Farrior, Greenville, won the WTA dolphin division with a 53.7-pounder pulled in by junior angler Michael Cripe. Job Site won $368,250 in WTA, daily and other weekly gamefish prizes.
Uno Mas, captained by Brooks Smith, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., won the wahoo division with a 59.3 pounder caught by angler Jeremy Certas. The Uno Mas catch earned the team $7,000 in daily and weekly prizes.
Predator, captained by Chris Barnett, Frisco, won the tuna division with a 145.1-pounder landed by Wayne. The Predator catch, believed to be the largest in Big Rock history, earned the team $7,000 in daily and weekly prizes. It was one of two tunas boated during the tournament.
By the end of the competition, anglers released 80 blue marlin, 54 white marlin, 17 sailfish and two spearfish. Doc Fees, captained by Taylor Pleasant, Wilmington, and his crew scored the 61strelease of the 61stBig Rock to win the tournament’s special $6,100 prize.
Since the tournament ran late and polygraphs need to be completed, results will not be official until Sunday. Winners are slated to receive their checks at 1 p.m. at the Big Rock weigh station.