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Vikings dominate Big Rock

by Viking Yachts 25 Jun 19:44 UTC
64th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament © Viking Yachts

Five days after landing a 572.6-pound blue marlin, the Viking 72 Mercenaria could finally celebrate with their record-breaking win at the 64th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

It all started on Day One when Chad Ballard's Mercenaria rolled up to the scales with the first fish of the tournament. When that blue marlin registered 572.6-pounds, the crowd erupted in cheers since it was a winning fish - capturing the Fabulous Fisherman award for the first blue marlin of the tournament weighing over 500 pounds. Matt Brown, who cranked in the fish, said, "It jumped quite a bit then went really deep. When it came to the side of the boat, we knew we were going to the scales."

Even though the team knew they won the Fabulous Fisherman, the wait was on. Would their fish hang on through the next five days to win the Blue Marlin category? Captain Neil Sykes said, "I joked that there were 265 boats out there full of high hopes and we were the only ones terrified! It was a very long five days."

Eight blues were brought to the scales throughout the week, but Mercenaria's was the biggest making the crew happy as a clam. This accomplishment earned the team an industry-record check for a single blue marlin. "They are a great group of people, and we were excited to see them at the top after a long week of waiting," said Big Rock Executive Director Madison Struyk. Rounding out the Mercenaria team is mate Jake Keech, mate Kurt Ward, Ben Fox and Tim Rapine.

The fish was big enough to have won the last five of 10 Big Rock competitions. It's also the 6th time in the last 10 Big Rock tournaments the winning fish was brought in on Day One. And it was the third $1 million-plus fish in tournament history.

Making a late push was Safari, finishing first in the Top Release Boat Sonar category. Captain Rodney "Moon" Crossman put the 72 on three blue marlin and a sailfish on Thursday and a pair of blues and a sail on Friday. Robert McNeil and Brett Goulding were the anglers for the seven releases.

Frank Sinoto's Viking 62 Irene won the Top Release Non-Sonar. Captain James Ewing was behind the wheel for Frank's three blue marlin.

The 3rd Heaviest Tuna went to Rob Kilroy with a 51.8-pound fish. Rob hooked the fish on the Viking 61 Overtime with captain Kevin Gaylord.

Mike Everly, captaining his Viking 92 Speculator, brought Rob Leerink's winning wahoo to the dock. The fish hit the scale at 104.7 pounds - a whopper of a wahoo!

And let's not forget the 25th annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament (KWLA) which kicked off the Big Rock. The momentum started with the ladies on the Viking 52 Can Do Too. Fishing on Sid Gold's boat, Hunter Gentel and Meredith Hinton each released a blue marlin to win the Top Billfish Release Boat.

Captain Skip Lecain and anglers Sarah Beth Overton, Emily Payne, Allison Terrill and Andrea Terrill completed Team Can Do Too.

Heather Morris, angling on the Viking 68 Dun-Rite, caught the 2nd Heaviest Dolphin with a 26.7-pound fish. The KWLA is named in honor of the late wife of Big Rock board member Casey Wagner, who lost her battle with cancer in 2008. It is one of the largest ladies-only fishing events in the world and saw a record 215 boats in the 2022 fleet.

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