Tournament season is in full swing when the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament rolls out the red carpet in downtown Morehead City. The tournament brings droves of visitors and residents to the waterfront to line the streets and bleachers, waiting for the day’s catch to be weighed at Big Rock Landing. This is the 57th year of the tournament that started from humble beginnings, but has handed out prizes topping $1 million for the past 15 years. And this year, the tournament has a new home and a new weigh station to celebrate during its June 5-13 event.
Prior to 1957, the blue marlin was an elusive catch that most believed could only be caught in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A blue marlin had never been caught in the waters off Morehead City, though sailors that came in on cargo ships always told stories of the blue marlin seen not too far offshore.
In the early 1950s a band of charter boat captains, fishing pier owners, anglers and business owners got together over coffee at The Sanitary restaurant and hatched a plan. Tired of being slighted as a hotspot for fishing, the group decided to contribute $25 each and solicit additional donations in hopes of raising a $500 reward for the first blue marlin brought in.
The group had solicited roughly $350 by the time Bill Olsen, working out of the Morehead City Yacht Basin, took an inexperienced fisherman offshore and returned that evening with a marlin. It was Sept. 14, 1957 when angler Jimmy Croy heaved a 143-pound blue marlin aboard the Mary Z – a day that marked a new era for Carteret County and the fishing industry worldwide.
“We started with 250 silver dollars as a prize and now the purse is over $1 million, so the growth has been exponential,” said Crystal Hesmer, tournament director.
This year, for the first time, the tournament has included an outboard level, making the tournament accessible for even more anglers. The total entry fee is $3,500 for this new division, with a guaranteed purse of $10,000.
The tournament kicks off with the Lady Angler Event from 6-8pm on Friday, June 5 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center. The Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament runs from 8am-1pm on Saturday, June 6. The tournament gets in full swing with the Captain’s Party at the Crystal Coast Civic Center from 7-11pm on Saturday, June 6.
Fans are kept up to date by the folks at the Big Rock with a running ticker of each hook-up, release and capture with its website. For additional details, rules, regulations and registration information, visit www.thebigrock.com.