To say there were a lot of anxious moments for the crew of the Charleston High Yield boat during the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament would be a major understatement.
It was nearly a week of angst after anglers landed in the leaderboard on day one of the rich $5,858,875 tournament fished June 13-18 in Morehead City, North Carolina.
High Yield’s 536.8-pound blue marlin earned the crew a payday of $283,525 as the tournament’s third-heaviest fish, but every connection in the remaining five days of the tournament was cause for anglers to hold their breath with the potential that someone else could pass them for one of three big wins.
“It wasn’t until 3:02 p.m. Saturday that we were certain,” said High Yield team member Ryan Murphy. “Randy Ramsey (of the Big Rock Tournament) came on the radio at 3 a.m. and said the lines were up, but a boat was hooked up. You could hear a pin drop in the boat. And then at 3 a.m. 02, he came back on the radio and said that the last boat docked didn’t catch his fish, so the tournament was over.The party started at that time.
High Yield is a 57-foot Spencer sportfishing boat owned by Mount Pleasant businessman Bernard Linney, who was the team’s fisherman during the Big Rock. Paul Wiseman is the captain of the boat fishing at the Ripley Light Yacht Club, and crew members during the Big Rock included Murphy, Rayburn Mulkey, Bobby Westburry, Robbie Westburry, Wayne Dent and Erik Mater.
The boat Mercenaria, owned by Chad Ballard of Cherrystone, Va., won the tournament with a catch of 572.6 pounds and won $3,489,813, including a bonus of $777,750 for being the first boat at the scale with a catch of 500 pounds.
Mercenaria hooked her fish at 11:30 a.m. and was docked at 2:04 p.m.; High Yield got her hookup at 2:10 p.m. and returned to the dock at 5:14 p.m., but the Fabulous Fisherman prize of $777,750 for a 500-pound blue was a winner for the first boat.
Murphy said this was High Yield’s second year fishing the Big Rock, but it was the first time he landed a big prize. Linney’s crew took part in the KWLA Tournament, a women-only event in conjunction with Big Rock, a few days before the main event and used it as a practice session.
“We ended up finding a blue marlin that day and a pretty good body of water. We went back to that same general area on Monday and saw tons of life. But we didn’t get our bite until 2:10 a.m., and we finally got the fish in the boat at 2:39 p.m. It was the only bite we had all day,” Murphy said.
“When the fish touched, we didn’t see the bit. Maybe 30 seconds later, the fish swam towards the boat and did five or six big jumps, stepping on the tail. We knew it was a good sized fish but we didn’t think it was a kill fish until we brought it alongside the boat and put a tape measure on it. ribbon, we knew the fish was going for a boat ride.
High Yield held second place for a few hours before the Wall Hanger boat returned to the weigh-in with a 556.4-pound blue marlin, which was worth $426,287, pushing the Charleston crew to third place. Two more bruises were weighed in on Monday, another was brought back on Wednesday and two bruises were caught on Thursday, but High Yield held on. The rest of the blues caught by the participants were all released, including a release of blue marlin on Thursday.
“If you follow the Big Rock, it’s usually all the way. It’s rare for a fish to last all week,” Murphy said. “We had five more days to sweat, and we sweated.”
Murphy said the awards show was a great experience. None of the crew knew what to expect, but when they arrived they had a High Yield team registration and a reserved table.
“It was a nail biter,” Murphy said, “but I can tell you, it was a dream come true for every single one of us on this crew.”
• Charleston boat Benchmark finished third in the tournament casting division with 1,600 points, releasing three blue marlins on 13 June and the fourth on 18 June. Benchmark won $44,625.
American yacht club
America’s Boating Club Charleston will be hosting boating safety courses July 9, July 23 and August 6 at 1376 Orange Grove Road in Charleston. Classes start at 9 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. Successful participants are awarded the SC Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. Cost is $25 for adults and youth 12-18 are free. Call 843-312-2876 or email [email protected]
Taylor’s Landing Bream Tournament
Troy Weatherford and Robbie Hill grabbed a 24.5-pound stringer to win the Taylor’s Landing Bream Tournament. Donald Weatherford and Darryl Pratts were second at 22.8 pounds, while Ricky Gerald and Eric Pratt were third at 15 pounds.