MOREHEAD CITY — Taylor Miller, a former Division I college athlete, is used to persevering through strenuous tasks.
But the former Appalachian State baseball pitcher sure had the battle of his life Wednesday during the third day of the Big Rock Blue Marlin fishing tournament.
Miller reeled in his first marlin — and one that now stands as the leader in the million-dollar tournament.
He was the angler aboard the boat, Hatteras Fever II, which brought a 465.3-pound marlin back to the weigh station. The new catch surpassed the 423.8-pound big blue that was caught by Morehead City boat Sensation on Monday.
“It is a catch of a lifetime,” Miller said. “I hope to catch something bigger than this one day, but today is unreal.”
Hatteras Fever II, a Ricky Scarborough 54-footer from Buxton, hooked its catch at 12:19 p.m. The fight lasted for nearly 30 minutes.
The Hatteras Fever II is captained by Buddy Hooper.
“On the boat, it’s organized chaos,” Miller said. “Once that fish came on board, there were a lot of high-fiving and a lot of cheering. It was an incredible moment.”
Hooper said they were about 25 miles out where the marlin were aggressive.
“We had to run about 25 miles to where the marlin were feeding,” he said. “We were fishing for about 20 minutes and he came under the boat and hooked himself, and the fight was on. We just got lucky.”
Miller said the marlin latched onto the line and continued to swim away from the boat.
“The fish took off,” he said. “When it ate (the bait) it was mad. It probably burned out 400 yards of line. Once we got it stopped, Captain Buddy turned the boat around and chased that fish down.”
Once it was onboard the Hatteras Fever II, the crew still was unsure if it was good enough for first place.
The criteria for a marlin to be brought in is that is must be at least 400 pounds or 110 feet long from tail to its jaw.
“We knew it was going to be close, but we didn’t know,” Miller said.
Out of 100 boats entered in the tournament, 97 fished on Wednesday.
The wind was blowing 7 to 12 knots with three to five-foot waves. Because of rough conditions on Tuesday, all but 10 boats used one of two required lay days.
There are three fishing days remaining, and Thursday’s conditions are not looking good.
The Hatteras Fever II crew is in line to win $491,297.50 of the tournament purse of $1,154,625. Sensation is in a position to win $195,702.50 for second place.
The record catch of an 831-pound blue marlin was caught by Summertime Blue in 2000.
“It’s crazy to think that something like that could happen,” Miller said of winning the tournament. “We are praying and hoping that’s the case, but we are not counting anything before it’s done.”
On the day, there were 19 releases — 10 blue marlin, five white marlin and four sailfish.
The Summerfield-based Dancin’ Outlaw claimed $2,000 for releasing the first blue of the day. Sea Spud leads in the overall release division with two blue marlin.
The Chesapeake, Va.-based Goin Deep leads in the dolphin category at 48.8 pounds.
The Hubert-based Bil-Buster leads in the tuna division at 64.8. The boat is captained by John Stelle. The angler is John Casalaspro. Magic Moment of Smithfield leads in the Wahoo division at 65.8 pounds.