Boats. Fish. Fees. Prizes. Put the word “big” in front of each of those words and you have the big reason some boaters don’t enter the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament: They think big winnings belong to big players, not small boaters.
Aware of the sentiment, the board of directors changed the prize structure for the 56th annual event headquartered at Big Rock Landing on the Morehead City waterfront, said Crystal Hesmer, the tournament director.
The boats that enter all seven levels still pay $19,000 in entry fees for their chances at a total purse that may exceed $1 million for the six-day competition that starts Monday.
“But if you just entered the tournament at one level for $2,500, there are now 60 ways you can win money,” Hesmer said, citing a variety of guaranteed daily and weekly prize categories for billfish releases and game fish catches moved to Level I. “We just wanted to encourage any size boat to fish the tournament.”
Previously, Level 1 provided 30 ways to win.
“And at $2,500 level, you can put four guys together and have fun,” Hesmer said. “They can go to the parties and the events and still have 60 different ways to win money.”
Of course, they still must catch fish.
Charities: The prizes get a lot of attention, but the tournament has donated more than $3.1 million to nonprofits along the coast.
Hesmer said organizers are re-emphasizing the donations to charities by adopting a new slogan: “Charity first. You help us make the difference.”
Ladies first: Competition starts Saturday with the 17th Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament, a one-day billfish release contest. Proceeds benefit the Raab Cancer Clinic.
Follow along: Besides www.thebigrock.com, the Big Rock is all over social media, so it’s easy to keep up with the action on Facebook and Instagram. On Twitter, follow @BigRockFishing, and use #BigRockTournament. Download the free app from Apple’s App Store.
Big fish await: Big blue marlin are off Carteret County. Six fish exceeding 400 pounds – from 401 to 549 – topped the standings for the 34th Swansboro Rotary Blue Water Memorial Day Tournament at Big Rock Landing.
Farther south off Wrightsville Beach, the winning fish in the 41st Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament topped 821 pounds.
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