Big Rock Tournament kicks off with $3.5 million in marlin catches

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) – The annual Big Rock Tournament kicked off early Monday morning with 271 boats, and a total of more than 302 boats competing for the grand prize of $7,560,575.

The first blue marlin of the tournament was hooked by the boat ‘Release’ at 10:24 am. ‘Release’ arrived at Big Rock Landing around 2:45 p.m., with the marlin weighing in at 504 pounds.

This catch, being over 500 pounds, won over $1.7 million

The 53-foot boat hails from Hatteras Harbor.

Around 2:25 p.m., ‘Game Time’ also boated a marlin, arriving at Big Rock landing around 4:20 p.m.

The marlin weighed in at a staggering 516 pounds, taking first place for the day and earning more than $1.8 million.

Captain Rom Whitaker and angler Kirk Pugh of ‘Release’ made the first catch.

“Man, I can’t even count a hundred dollars but a million dollars! It’s unbelievable, and the great part about it is my son invested in this so he’s going to get a big chunk of that. So isn’t that great. Wow! I’m excited,” said Pugh.

The owner and angler of ‘Game Time’ expressed his amazement at the catch.

“It was a great day. It was really, really slow. It was the only bite we got all day and it happened to be our turn. We were running over fish and running over fish on the sonar, and it just didn’t happen. We ate lunch and the next thing you know, everybody’s sitting, kind of in limbo, and here it comes.”

This is the 66th annual tournament, which lasts until Saturday.

For daily updates on each team and each catch, click here.