Flybuoy hangs on to win rich Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament
After a nerve-wracking 10 hours Saturday, the crew of the Charleston boat Flybuoy let out a sigh of relief and began a raucous celebration after winning the 54th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, N.C.
Flybuoy, owned by Gary Davis and captained by Robert Hollingsworth, boated a 499.3-pound blue marlin Monday that turned out to be worth $496,710.
But there was plenty of anxiety on the tournament’s final day with two boats landing blue marlin early in the day. Because they already had a money fish, and because of the 12-foot seas, the Flybuoy crew elected to stay at the dock.
The two boats that landed blue marlin both failed to meet the tournament’s minimum of either 110 inches from the fork of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail or 400 pounds. Both fish were in the 360-pound range.
“Everybody is going crazy. There must be a thousand people on the boat,” said angler Todd Baxley, who normally captains Flybuoy but was the boat’s designated angler this week.
“There’s nothing like winning the Big Rock. You’ve got the best blue marlin fishermen on the East Coast fishing. It’s a great thing to win. Only 54 boats can say they’ve won the Big Rock, and we can say that.”
Flybuoy’s catch added another Charleston chapter to the Big Rock tournament. Other Charleston boats that have won the storied event include Diamond Girl in 1989, Summertime Blues in 2000, Pipe Layer in 2003, Bak Bar in 2007 and Artemis in 2008. Summertime Blues’ 831-pound catch is the tournament record.
Flybuoy narrowly missed winning another $246,500, a bonus for the first 500-pound blue marlin caught in the tournament.
“When it jumped the first time, I looked at Robert, Kathy (Baxley’s wife, who was the fourth crew member) and Mr. Davis and said that’s 500 pounds. Get the gaffs out,” Baxley said.
Baxley said it took almost two hours to get the fish to the boat, where Hollingsworth handled the leader and Baxley used the flying gaff. He said it took 15 minutes to wrangle the big fish into the boat.
“Seven-tenths of a pound was a little bit disappointing, but we knew we were in first place and we had a fish on the dock at the Big Rock. It was a little bit of a letdown missing $250,000, but it was a sweet ending,” Baxley said.
Only two blue marlin meeting the tournament standards were caught, Flybuoy’s and a 437.7-pound catch by the Morehead City boat Inspiration. Inspiration won $212,640.
Baxley said no discussions had been held on how to split the money, “but Mr. Davis takes good care of everybody. Everybody will get their fair share.”
Three other Charleston boats also cashed in.
Compromise, owned by Robert Hood and captained by Larry Branham, won $5,457.60 in the Monday release division with two blue marlin worth 800 points and another $2,000 for releasing the first billfish on Monday.
Benchmark, owned by Stephen Davis and captained by Bobby Garmany, finished second in the Monday release division with 650 points for a grand slam of a blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish. Benchmark won $3,638.40.
Jabez, owned by Carl Ulm and captained by Ben Polk, won the $2,000 prize for Tuesday’s first release.