Just 4 pounds determines the winning team
Capt. Chuck Lindner and boat owner Robert Warren had not missed fishing in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in 38 consecutive years. Having had ankle surgery just weeks before, Warren was unsure he would be able to participate in the 2018 event, but a few days before the kickoff, his doctor gave him the go-ahead. Lindner knew he would have to be choosy with his fishing days and careful not to re-injure his boat owner’s ankle.
“The weather was overcast and choppy,” says Lindner. “And the fishing had been slow. We were watching a good body of water heading our way — thinking we would give it a day to move in, and the weather a day to move out — so we laid the first day.”
The crew on the 61-foot Spencer
Honey Hush was looking for the water it had been tracking, and by lines in had decided to work an edge to the south. Just before lunch, Lindner had a blue marlin pull on his right teaser. The fish finally crashed the left short.
In the chair, angler Robbie Gorrell was head-down, reeling as fast as he could while the big Spencer quickly backed up to retrieve the line that flew off the spool on the fish’s initial run. Thirty minutes and two jumps later, it was verified for Lindner: “He was a good one,” he says.
Working the cockpit, Lindner’s son had to dump the leader after the first attempt at wiring the big marlin, but the second time, the father-and-son team gave each other a look that meant only one thing: Stick him.
Not completely out of the game, Warren swung the first gaff — injured ankle and all. Once the marlin was boated, the team headed in with a blue marlin that weighed 518.5 pounds, one that remained in first place over the next four and a half days and ultimately would be worth more than $750,000 in prize money.
But the tournament’s reputation for last-day heroics continued this year. With five minutes remaining in the event, the 55-foot Jarrett Bay Fender
Bender hooked up to the final fish of the tournament, an eventual second-place contender. “We were on pins and needles,” recalls Lindner. The entire team watched as the official weight for Fender
Bender’s marlin was announced at 514.3 pounds; the Honey Hush team erupted in cheers. It had just won the 2018 Big Rock by a scant 4.2 pounds.
Capt. Carl Beale and the Fender
Bender team finished in second place with their 514.3-pound blue marlin, landed by Col. T.J. “Bucket” Dunne. The team on Carterican, a 57-foot Gwaltney captained by Lee Smith, rounded out the top three with a blue marlin weighing 500.9 pounds. The fish, landed by Cole Ammons, qualified — by less than 1 pound — for the tournament’s Level V Fabulous Fishermen prize of $501,500.
“We never really expected our fish to hold up,” says Lindner. “When you have an amazing fisherman like Capt. Daniel ‘Backlash’ Davis and legends like Capt. Buddy Hooper in the field, you don’t hold your breath with a 500-pounder. In this tournament, you never know.”