Winning marlin tournament was an aspiration
While growing up in Morehead City, Casey Wagner dreamed of winning the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament as captain of a sportfishing boat.
After all, it gradually was becoming the coastal town’s signature event, with prize money gradually growing toward a purse of $1 million.
Last Saturday, Wagner’s aspiration came to pass aboard his boat Inspiration.
Wagner teamed with angler Bruce Brown of Nags Head to capture the 56th annual Big Rock with a massive marlin weighing 754.3 pounds. It took Brown 4 hours and 35 minutes to bring the big blue to the gaff, manned by Wagner’s son, Cole.
Second place was taken by skipper Burrows Smith and his Wrightsville Beach team aboard the Eye Catcher. Angler Randy Kelley caught a blue marlin of 606 pounds.
Although the winning fish was the tournament’s biggest by far, the Wagner-Brown crew agonized most of the tournament. They caught their fish on June 9, the first day of competition. Lightning hit and disabled the Inspiration en route to sea the following day and it had to be towed back to Morehead City Marina for repairs.
It became a waiting game that was to endure almost until the very end. Just 19 minutes before the deadline for “lines out” of the water, another boat’s skipper radioed in a blue marlin hookup. A bit later, however, came a message that the fish wasn’t nearly big enough to contend and had been released.
Finally, Wagner and company could celebrate a victory worth $306,137 from a purse of $1,395,825. The winning prize could have been much more if Wagner had entered all five levels of competition.
Nevertheless, he was elated.
“This is something we have aspired to,” said Wagner. “We’ve worked toward it a long time.
“Except for Cole, everybody on the boat has been friends since college. It’s a tight group of people that have fished together frequently for a long time. To have that crowd together for this and Cole as mate, it’s just incredible.”
In Other Tournaments
• Eddie Smith and Michael Carson teamed to win a Carolinas Bass Challenge Series event Saturday at Lake Wylie with five fish weighing 17.83 pounds. Their triumph was worth $15,825, counting bonuses. Taking second place with 17.43 pounds were Brian Travis and Ashley Brotherton, who earned $5,225, including a prize for the largest single bass, a largemouth scaling 5.36 pounds. The tournament drew 138 two-person teams.
• A team led by Brian Elam of Mt. Gilead won the Ninth Annual Scotty’s Catfish Tournament at Blewett Falls Lake, weighing 3 fish totaling 94.4 pounds. Elam’s catch in the event overnight Friday into Saturday included the top single catfish of 53.1 pounds and overall his team pocketed $2,090. Second place was taken by Wesley King’s team with 73.1 pounds, worth $600. Sixty boats were entered in the tourney sponsored by Scotty’s Bait & Tackle of Lilesville.
• A new fishing law has gone into effect on the S.C. coast limiting the catch of several popular species. Anglers are now limited to a mix of 50 croaker, spot and whiting per day. There was a time when people fishing on piers caught 100 or more spots a day without regulation. “This is a step toward maintaining these fish populations as the number of (anglers) continues to grow at about 30 percent each decade,” said state fishery official Mel Bell. Additionally, starting on July 1, the S.C. daily personal limit on flounder changes to 15 per day and the boat limit to 30.
• The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s law enforcement officers, commonly called “game wardens,” once again are scheduled to participate in “Operation Dry Water” on June 27-29. It’s a nationwide campaign to raise awareness to the dangers of boating while under the influence of alcohol. The state’s penalty for operating a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs is up to $1,000 in fines and possible jail time.
Catches Of The Week
• A 12-pound largemouth bass at Union County’s Lake Lee by Willie Smith of Monroe.
• An 84-pound cobia in the Hatteras Island surf at Ramp 38 near Avon by Virginian Chris Peeples.
• A 225-pound bigeye tuna off Oregon Inlet by Virginian Carter Schrum.
• A bluefish of 10.13 pounds at Bogue Inlet Pier by Matt Anderson of Peletier.
• A bluefish of 9.4 pounds at Bogue Inlet Pier by Brittany Gates of Burlington.
• Smallmouth bass of 6 1/4 pounds and 5 3/4 pounds, respectively, by Mooresville fishermen Terry Murphy and Boots Beasley while fishing at Lake St. Clair in Michigan.
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