Rare has there been a day like Monday’s opening round of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament out of Morehead City. Three big blue marlin were brought to the scales, and two of them may stay atop the leader board for the entire six days of action unless something else tremendous happens.
Inspiration, a Morehead City-based boat owned and captained by Casey Wagner, got to the scales around 6 p.m. with a 754.3-pound blue that is the third-largest in tournament history and the biggest since 2000.
That huge fish knocked an awfully big one off the top of the leaderboard. Earlier in the afternoon, Wrightsville Beach-based Eye Catcher, captained by Burrows Smith, had brought in a 606.9-pound blue.
In between the two huge fish, Carnivore, owned and captained by Ed Petrelli of Cape Carteret and winner of the 2010 Big Rock, brought in a blue that weighed 410.7 pounds, 10-pounds above the 400-pound minimum for a fish to be weighed.
Wagner has a special connection to the Big Rock; he is past president of the tournament, and the 1-day Keli Wagner Lady Anglers tournament, held last Friday and every year just before the Big Rock, is named for his wife, Keli, who lost her battle with cancer in 2008. She fished every Big Rock Ladies Angler tournament held through 2008.
Wagner’s fish measured 129 inches, seven longer than the 831-pound tournament record caught in 2000.
Eye Catcher hooked up with its big marlin just 11 minutes after the tournament opened. It took angler Randy Kelley 46 minutes to bring the billfish to the boat.
Carnivore showed up early in the afternoon with its marlin, caught by Brandon Bass of Greensboro.
Offshore conditions were a bit rougher than expected but the billfish bite was outstanding. The field of 120 boats released 13 blue marlins, 26 white marlins and one sailfish.