Beaufort County man participates in Big Rock

Published 1:11 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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For the Washington Daily News

Big Rock is an annual fishing tournament held in Morehead City. It is a prestigious tournament as it attracts competitors from across the world and offers a large cash prize for the top finishers.

This year’s tournament concluded with controversy. One boat caught a 600 Ib. marlin and almost won $3.5 million but they were disqualified. The fish had shark bites in it and any fish that has been affected by sharks is disqualified by rule.

The tournament had a total of 271 boats in the competition. The competition lasted six days. Each boat could be out fishing for four days and had to take two days off.

There are different levels of competition. These ranged from levels 1-11 and in these levels, there were different focuses. There were levels dedicated to blue marlins, dolphins, and radar restriction.

Jim Ashley participated in the tournament and competed in the blue marlin levels. Ashley is a Beaufort County resident and had a lot of fishing experience before the tournament.

“I was a charter boat captain for 15 years out of Hatteras,” Ashley said. “I left fishing five years ago for better opportunities for my children.”

In Big Rock, he competed on The Predator. Ashley said the Captain, Chris Barnett, asked him to be the second mate with Bobby Papai being the first mate. They had six other anglers that made up the nine-man crew.

Ashley said the first two days were slow for the crew due to rough weather. On day three, most of the boats took one of their mandatory days off. Only 14 boats competed on day three, and one of them was The Predator.

This was the day they caught a 459 Ib. blue marlin and moved into third place. If they were to hold third place, they would’ve finished with a cash price.

Ashley said they would catch another blue marlin in the 400 Ib. range but released it as it was smaller than the first one they caught. Another boat called Sushi would catch a larger blue marlin, which knocked out The Predator from the top three. While not winning any cash prizes, Ashley said the crew had an amazing experience.

“It was a blast,” Ashley said. “We made memories I’ll never forget. We had the fifth-largest qualifying fish in the tournament out of 271 boats. I’m looking forward to competing next year.”