Boat's 533-pounder holds up through second day of tournament

A local captain finally got the moment he wanted in the Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament.

Captain Brian Harrington of Morehead City and his crew aboard the Run Off emerged as the 59th annual tournament’s first-day leader and also won the “Fabulous Fisherman’s” prize by bringing in a 533.8-pound marlin on Monday.

The catch maintained its lead on Tuesday when no blue marlin were boated.

Run Off, a Wes Mac 46-foot vessel, is in position to win roughly $1.16 million from the record-breaking tournament purse of $2,411,650. That includes $467,500 for winning the Fabulous Fisherman’s prize for being the first boat to bring in a big blue of at least 500 pounds.

The crew was also given 250 silver dollars to commemorate the prize awarded to the winning crew during the inaugural Big Rock in 1957.

“There’s nothing like this,” Harrington said. “I’ve been fishing in this tournament since 1991. Fishing for one bite, that’s all we’ve been doing, and we got it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

The Greenville-based Weldor’s Ark is in second place at 484.9 pounds. Owner and angler John Roberts of Morehead City was just as thrilled to bring in his marlin to the scales, even though his Jarrett Bay 55-foot boat didn’t measure up to Run Off.

“It took a couple of hours and we realized it was a nice fish after having it as long as we did,” he said. “The conditions were actually too pretty. Normally you want a little chop so you can get the bait working better. But, shucks, that fish came in and we had the right bait.”

The Wilson-based Whitecaps is in third place at 417.7.

“There were some pretty hot bites,” Whitecaps captain Scott Wiggins of La Grange said. “There were boats where we were at, but we stayed a little bit North and worked our own waters. We had four bites. That’s pretty hot fishing.”

Only four of the 177 boats took the first of two required lay days Monday. Oddly enough, the Run Off crew likely needed more time fishing on the opening day than it needed getting acquainted with one another.

“We met on one occasion prior to yesterday,” Harrington said. “Today, everybody cooperated really well together.”

Angler Matt Hanley of Richmond, Va., was one of the newcomers. And what a way for him to make his debut on the Run Off.

“We were going to fish another boat, but they ended up being booked and they turned us to (first mate Marty Hiatt) and Brian,” he said. “Needless to say, I don’t think I could be any happier. I had my 10-year-old son, Will, with us and for him to be out there was pretty cool.”

Of the 177 boats, 110 entered all levels of the tournament, meaning a winning big blue could be worth $1,161,450 if it wins all five levels.

Fishing continues through Saturday with daily weigh-ins at the Morehead City Waterfront.