Three days after topping the leaderboard with a catch of 572.6 pounds, a Virginia Beach skip and crew are closing in on the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament grand prize of more than $3.4 million.
The tournament’s fleet of 266 boats may hit the water on Saturday in a last-ditch attempt to knock Mercenaria out of first place in the lucrative blue marlin category. The potential payout could be $3,489,813, according to the tournament website in Morehead City, North Carolina. Fishing ends at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The Mercenaria is owned by Chad Ballard, president of Cherrystone Aqua-Farms in Cape Charles, and is named after a species of clam grown by the company. The 72-foot Viking is captained by Neil Sykes of Virginia Beach and is moored at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center in Rudee Inlet. The crew includes fishermen from Virginia Beach and the East Coast.
The boat has already won $777,750 for landing the tournament’s first qualified blue marlin over 500 pounds. That catch from Monday – brought home by Matt Brown from Cape Charles – has remained in first place ever since.
The Wall Hanger, a boat from North Carolina, remains in second place with a marlin of 556.4 pounds, followed by High Yield (Charleston, SC) with a marlin of 526.7 pounds.
The fleet is competing in 10 categories for a tournament record purse of over $5.8 million. Boats are allowed to fish on four of the six tournament days, and category entry fees range from $1,000 to $20,000.
On Thursday, 255 boats touched the water and 38 blue marlins were caught. Two of them taken on the scale at Big Rock Landing weighed less than 460 pounds and missed the ranking.
As fishing began Friday morning, 139 boats hit the water. By 4 p.m. when fishing ended for the day, 14 blue marlin had been caught, but none topped the standings.
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Jami Frankenberry, 757-446-2376, email@example.com. Twitter @JamiVP