Dale Britt says there is one important factor that goes into catching a blue marlin.
“Luck,” he said. “It really is. You just have to be in the right place at the right time when there’s a hungry fish, and that’s what it boils down to. You get around them sometimes and they’re just not interested in the baits.”
Britt, who captains the boat Sensation out of Morehead City, plans on fishing in the 56th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament next week in Morehead City. He finished second in last year’s tournament with a 423.8-pound catch. Hatteras Fever II took home the top prize money of $478,050 with its first-place fish of 465.3 pounds.
He said about only 33 percent of blue marlin hooked are ever brought to the boat, and with a 400-pound weight limit, even fewer are brought to the scales to be weighed during the tournament.
“All the stars have to line up,” he said. “You have to get around a big fish to begin with. That fish has to be hungry. All the right things just have to happen all the way around.”
Britt is a frequent Big Rock competitor. He finished the tournament in second place in 1996 with a 527-pound fish, just eight pounds shy of first place.
The Big Rock is one of the most prestigious blue marlin tournaments around, and Britt said bringing a fish to the scales at the Morehead City waterfront is like no other feeling in the fishing world.
“It’s the closest chance to being a rock star that a fisherman will ever get,” he said. “It’s certainly as good as it gets when it comes to fishing.”
Britt fished the Swansboro Rotary Bluewater Tournament over Memorial Day weekend when six blue marlin were boated. The Morehead City boat Maggie won the tournament with a 549.2-pound catch. Britt said his boat had a couple of hook-ups during that tournament, and with all the activity, he expects a busy week at the Big Rock compared to last year when just two marlin were weighed.
“There have been a lot of fish seen and caught this spring,” he said. “I feel like it’s going to be an exceptional year for the Big Rock this year, when you think about six fish being weighed in two days in Swansboro and there’s only 42 or 43 boats. The Big Rock you have 100 or more boats fishing for six days, so I’m going to say this will be a lot more active than last year was.”
Crystal Hesmer, Big Rock director, said the number of the boats that fished the Swansboro tournament as well as the fishing activity have tournament officials excited about the coming week.
“We feel that bodes well for our tournament as well as all the tournaments in North Carolina,” she said. “They caught a lot of blue marlin and legal blue marlin all over 400 pounds, so it’s exciting for everyone fishing the Big Rock.”
And with a new level I entry of $2,500 to get into the marlin, dolphin, tuna, wahoo and billfish release categories, Hesmer said more boats have the chance to enter and claim part of the estimated $1 million total purse.
“For $2,500, you can come fish the tournament the whole week, get guaranteed money the whole week — if you catch a fish — and have fun at all the events,” she said. “It’s just a way for boats of any size to come fish the tournament. We always want more boats to fish the Big Rock.”
The tournament is known for its economic impact on the Crystal Coast, but the Big Rock also has a large charitable component, with $3.1 million given to nonprofit groups in the previous 55 years of the tournament, including $100,000 last year.
“We want everyone who participates to understand that their participation really is making a difference in our communities,” said Hesmer, adding that the Big Rock logo was updated this year to reflect the charitable part of the event.
The Big Rock begins Saturday with the Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament. Though the tournament is a billfish release tournament, game fish are used as a tiebreaker and will be weighed beginning around 3 p.m. at the Big Rock scales on the Morehead City Waterfront.
The Big Rock begins on Monday and continues through June 14. Boats fish four out of six days of the tournament. Daily weigh-ins of dolphin, wahoo and tuna — and potentially blue marlin — are scheduled for around 5 p.m. in Morehead City.
The tournament can be followed daily on its website at www.thebigrock.com.