A center console wins big in The Big Rock
For the first time in the 62-year history of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, an outboard-powered boat won first place. The crew on the Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot Contender center console, beat out a fleet of 205 boats, with a narrow victory over second place.
The Pelagic Hunter II team, including Capt. John Cruise III, Norman Bowen, Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick, landed a 495.2-pound blue marlin after a long, arduous battle, to slip ahead of Sea Striker of Morehead City, who finished with the second-place fish weighing in at 495 pounds. Predator landed in third-place with a 494.2-pounder. The top three fish were within one pound of each other. That’s about as close as you can get.
Taking place in Morehead City, North Carolina, in the heart of the custom sport-fish world, this tournament mostly draws big 60-plus-foot inboard-powered vessels, many with professional captains and crew. The Sneads Ferry, North Carolina-based crew on Pelagic Hunter II proved that you don’t need a big boat or a big crew to land a big pay day. The team walked off with a $239,837 payout from the Big Rock’s record $3.34 million purse. The winning boat was not registered in the high-dollar Level III or Level IV divisions, leaving substantial prizes on the table for other boats.
Second-place Sea Striker, with two-time Big Rock winner Capt. Adrian Holler and angler Jon Henry, walked with $1.05 million in prizes. Third place Predator, which held the lead for four days, received $237,750 in prizes. The second-biggest check of the tournament was written out to Lo Que Sea, which won the release division, scoring 2,250 points in the catch-and-release division. Based in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and captained by Garrett Yarbrough, they took home $752,250, pocketing $151,937 in weekly release prize plus the $552,500 Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s prize, because no fish over 500 pounds came to the scales. The fleet also released 180 billfish over the course of the tournament.
The Catch 23, an 80-foot Viking owned by basketball legend Michael Jordan, was among the boats to make an appearance at the weigh in. The team came in with a 442.3-pound blue causing quite a stir at the landing.
Singularis won the largest payout in the “meat fish” division, which includes tuna, wahoo and dolphin (aka: mahi-mahi). Angler Zac Yarbrough reeled in a 55.2-pound dolphin, netting the crew a total of $402,250. C-Escape caught the heaviest wahoo with a 75.2-pounder to earn the boat $5,000 in prizes. No tuna came to the scales this year.
With the center console market continuing to grow (both in the number of boats sold and the overall length) it’s not all that surprising to hear about an outboard-powered boat stealing some of the spotlight from bigger sport-fishers. Will we continue to see center consoles punch above their weight on the tournament circuit? We wouldn’t bet against it.e
Heaviest Blue Marlin:
1. Pelagic Hunter, 495.2
2. Sea Striker, 495
3. Predator, 494.2
Overall Money Winners:
1. Sea Striker $1,056,137
2. Lo Que Sea $757,250
3. Singularis $402,250
4. Pelagic Hunter II $223,262
5. Hatter-Done $130,000