If you asked 10 people why they like to visit the Crystal Coast, no doubt 'fishing' would be mentioned at least eight out of 10 times. And the year's biggest fishing tournament is right around the corner.
For 59 years, the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament has drawn droves of spectators and media to the Morehead City waterfront. Visitors and residents visit shops and restaurants downtown while waiting for an angler to catch the top prize, a blue marlin. Prizes are awarded for game fish such as mahi mahi, tuna and wahoo, but it's the elusive blue marlin weigh-ins that draws the crowds to the bleachers and the streets. With six days of fishing in the main tournament, there is daily excitement to see who is at the top of the leader board and in the running for the purse, which annually tops $1 million.
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. One had never been caught in the waters off Morehead City, though sailors often told stories of the blue marlin seen not too far offshore. Most were convinced these stories were just tall tales, but Morehead City’s Fabulous Fishermen Club decided to see if the stories were true.
The original members of the club were able to convince local business leaders to put a small cash prize together for the person to catch the first blue marlin. While boats began to venture further out, the first blue marlin wasn’t caught until Sept. 14, 1957. The angler was welcomed at the dock by an impromptu parade and a children’s red wagon full of the prize money.
This year’s tournament is scheduled for June 9-17, drawing anglers from up and down the coast. Blue marlin are brought to the scales as soon as they are caught, while game fish weigh-ins occur Monday through Friday from 4-7pm and on Saturday from 3-6pm.
The tournament kicks off with the Lady Angler Event from 6-9pm on Friday, June 9 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center. The Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament runs from 8am-1pm on Saturday, June 10, followed by the Captain’s Party at the Civic Center from 7-11pm. Tickets can be purchased at tournament headquarters or at the door.
Can't make it downtown to see the big ones make it to the dock? Keep tabs on all the action with the tournament’s live feed at thebigrock.com.