BLUEWATER CURRENTS

Just 4 pounds de­ter­mines the win­ning team

Marlin - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS - BY CAPT. JEN COPEL AND

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.”

Fen­der Ben­der

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