Entered in the Cobia Challenge put on by Chasin’ Tails Outdoors in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Greg Marquart of Macclesfield had high hopes of hooking a fish that would put him in the money when he set out for Barden Inlet near Cape Lookout on May 15. 

Not only did he catch a big fish, but he put a 96-pounder on the leader board, the biggest ever weighed in the Challenge’s six years of existence and the fish to beat in the tournament, which ends June 18.

Armed with a load of live menhaden, Marquart and Alex Chandler of Clayton arrived in the inlet around 10 a.m. They put out a spread of baits into the channel.

“Around 12 o'clock, we caught one that weighed about 30 pounds and released it,” Marquart said. “A couple hours later, we went in and got a fresh load of bait, came back and fished. Around 5 o’clock, we caught another one that we released, and 30 minutes later we caught one that weighed 54 pounds. Then, the big one hit around 6 o’clock, taking a bait on one of Marquart’s rods: a spinning outfit spooled with 85-pound braid that connected to a 100-pound mono leader, tied to a 7/0 J-hook, and anchored in place by a 6-ounce egg sinker.

“The rod took off screaming and I picked it up. It run about 150 yards. I wasn’t sure what I had, but it felt like it was a cobia. Then, he turned and jumped out of the water. When he jumped, I said, ‘Get everything out of the water, it's a big one.’”

The fish made a run for the boat, allowing Marquart to regain most of his line. It spent the remainder of the relatively short, 20-minute fight circling and battling under the boat. Once tired and in range, Chandler hit him with the gaff, and both anglers hoisted him over the gunwale. With two fish on board, they high-tailed it back to Atlantic Beach so the fish could be weighed in with minimal weight loss.

“I was very surprised when he weighed 96 pounds,” said Marquart.  “I thought he was in the eighties. I’ve caught cobia that were longer, but this one was really fat.”

Marquart’s fish measured 57 inches to the fork.