Storybook finish in this year’s event

With a record-breaking fleet of 270 boats—50 more than the previous tournament record of 220 in 1999—and a record prize purse of $4,749,200, expectatio­ns were off the charts for this year’s Big Rock

Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, North Carolina. Going into the second-to-last day of fishing, Natural was in first place with a 521.6-pound blue marlin, followed by Outnumbere­d in second place with a 512.4-pound fish. The Oregon Inlet-based charter boat Widespread was in third, thanks to a 479.2-pound blue marlin weighed by Luke Pirrung.

With one eligible day left to fish in the tournament, proverbial lightning struck twice when Widespread, captained by Jay Watson, hooked up with a nice blue for Luke’s 19-year-old brother, Cole Pirrung. They hooked the marlin at 2:23 p.m. and fought it for approximat­ely four hours, eventually returning to the weigh-in dock on the Morehead City waterfront around 10:30 p.m. to a large crowd. Pirrung’s marlin weighed 656.5 pounds, earning the team $1,678,250.

Natural’s fish, landed by Jonathan Fulcher, was worth $453,700 for Capt. Carl Beale and his team. They also won the tournament’s Fabulous Fisherman’s level for the first blue marlin over 500 pounds, earning an additional $833,000. In third, Capt. James Breen and the Outnumbere­d team took home $301,800 for their efforts. The dolphin winner-takeall category paid $529,125 to Fin Print’s

Capt. Emery Ivey for a 48.3-pound fish caught by John Seegars. Wave Paver

won the release division with two blue marlin and one white marlin, a prize worth $207,188.

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