Run-Off ran off with $467,500 Monday when the Morehead City-based charter boat landed a 533.8-pounder to grab the inaugural lead of the 59th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

Run-Off captain Brian Harrington, Morehead City, and his first mate, Marty Hiatt, worked with Matt Hanley of Glen Allen, VA, to help the seasoned angler land his first-ever blue marlin. All three said teamwork was the key to their success during the 92-minute fight. Everything went smooth even though the trio had never fished together before and were only able to practice a few fishing scenarios at the dock.

“I’ll tell you what … I’ve fished different places in the world and Marty and the other mates cleared the other lines just like that,” Hanley said, sweeping his hands apart. “Everything went perfect. It was extra special because my son on board. To have him be there to see my first blue marlin … and to have it be something really special. It’s been a great day.”

Hanley’s catch was worth $467,500 because the Run-Off entered the Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s competition. This division of the tournament is a “Winner-Take-All” to the entered team that arrives at the scales first with a blue marlin that weighs at least 500 pounds.

Late Sunday registrations and early Monday upgrades pushed the 59th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament purse to $2,411,650 just minutes before the competition began. By 9 a.m. Monday – the time when lines went into the water and registration ceased – it became clear that this year’s event would be historic in many ways. Winners in the billfish release categories are set to divvy up a record $605,400. A $1,000 entry in the “Winner-Take-All” dolphin category is worth a record $136,850 to the winner. And the total blue marlin payouts are projected to be a record $1,578,650.

The 59th Big Rock opened with a bang as three blue marlins were boated during opening day. Weldor’s Ark, captained by Mike Taylor, Swansboro, staked a claim to second place in the blue marlin standings with a 484.9-pound blue marlin landed by John Roberts. White Caps is also headed to the scales with a blue marlin with an ETA of 7:30 p.m.

When registration closed, 177 boats had signed up to fish. While this was just three more boats than last year, participation levels in non-mandatory categories had increased significantly across the board. More than 80% of all teams signed up for blue marlin Levels II and III and 110 of the 177 boats entered all levels of the competition. That means a winning blue marlin catch would be worth $1,161,450 if it captures Levels I, II, III, IV and V.

Signing up for optional categories paid big dividends right off the bat. Thirteen minutes after lines went into water Monday the tournament had its first big winner. Buddy Boy, captained by Scott Farmsworth, Beaufort, caught and released a white marlin to win a billfish daily prize that more than covered his entry fee.

Most teams fished Monday as only four boats elected to use one-of-two mandatory lay days during the six-day event.

Fishing continues Tuesday at 9 a.m. when lines are allowed to go back in the water. Anglers are limited to fishing 4-of-6 days in the 6-day event.

Article and photo courtesy of thebigrock.