It’s hard to talk about boating without talking about fishing, and our stretch of the Atlantic coast is famous for its great fishing opportunities, for owners of boats both big and small. A wonderful institution that helps channel fishermen’s competitive instincts for fun, profit and charity is the fishing tournament, something we see by the dozens every year.
Some of these are very large-scale events, attracting big-boat sport fishermen from all over the East Coast for days of offshore game-fishing, with huge prize purses at stake. One of the biggest of these, which MarineMax helps to sponsor, is the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, held every June in the waters off Morehead City.
But we have plenty of opportunities for owners of smaller boats, too, with inshore tournaments for such fish as flounder and red drum. We also sponsor one of these, the “Fisherman’s Post” Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, coming up on July 15 and 16.
I’ll use those that we sponsor as examples, but let me emphasize that anyone who loves to fish and hopes for a chance at big prizes can participate in many, many others, held almost year-round and all along the coast.
When it comes to competitive billfishing, nothing tops The Big Rock. This began modestly in 1956 as something of a local event for a handful of fishermen in Carteret County. But starting in the 1980s it’s been a big deal, raising $3.7 million for charity since 1986, drawing boats and crews by the hundreds and dispensing prizes in six-figure amounts. I’m pleased that my company was a “platinum sponsor” for this year’s Big Rock tournament, which offered a prize of nearly a quarter-million dollars in the top category: $225,250 for the “winner-take-all” biggest blue marlin.
Of course, competing in that category isn’t for just anybody. Besides requiring a big boat with Gulf-Stream range and endurance, high-end tackle and a skilled and experienced captain and crew, entrants in that top category need to come up with $19,000 in entry fees!
Those who are in it for the sport, but don’t want to catch and kill a big fish, can participate in one of the hook-and-release categories, which also carry big prizes but have somewhat lower entry fees.
But for any competitor, the chance to strike it big and take home trophies and cash is only part of the appeal. The intangible but very real pride of being a champion is every bit as important. (And that’s with or without exercising “bragging rights,” according to the individual’s preference.) These tournaments are great social events, too. When the fishing is done for the day, big official parties and smaller, informal get-togethers, often on board the competing boats, are a major attraction for participants.
The Big Rock’s charitable contributions, as you’d expect from an event based in Morehead City, go mostly to organizations in Carteret County, ranging from medical, historical and nutritional causes and help for the homeless and the developmentally disabled, to North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology in Morehead City. One other beneficiary is worth mentioning. That’s the Take a Kid Fishing Foundation, meant to help share the experience and the ethics of responsible fishing with the next generation.
Besides attracting anglers from our region, The Big Rock has another local connection. While most of the tournament’s weigh-in stations are in Carteret County, some are as far afield as Hatteras to the north and Wrightsville Beach to the south. While in the area, competitors rely on our service department to keep boats and engines running at their peak during tournament time.
While The Big Rock is mostly a big-boat event, it does include a division for smaller, outboard boats. With a $1,000 entry fee, this carries a guaranteed $10,000 purse, with half of that going to the winner with the biggest marlin. If no billfish are caught (or hooked and released) in that category, the biggest gamefish, such as yellowfin tuna, dolphin or wahoo, will be the winner.
More information, including dates and registration details for the 2017 event, is online at www.thebigrock.com.
Closer to home, and closer to shore, we also support the flounder and red drum tournament that the “Fisherman’s Post,” a local newspaper, sponsors at Wrightsville Beach. It’s one of five in what they call their “Inshore Trail.” That provides additional prize opportunities for those who fish in more than one of their five different inshore tournaments.
In addition to the Wrightsville Beach event on July 15 and 16, the others are at Ocean Isle Beach, Surf City, Southport and Carolina Beach, from June through September.
For each of these inshore tournaments, the entry fee is $125 per boat in advance, or $150 during the last 10 days before fishing begins. Prizes for the Wrightsville Beach tournament will exceed $15,000, based on 100 boats participating.
Winning is simple. The single heaviest flounder or red drum wins $1,000. Prizes go down from there, with the eighth-place fish of each kind worth $150.
This tournament benefits charity and science, too. The Wilmington Elks Club and UNC Wilmington’s aquaculture program both get a share of the proceeds.
Details about the inshore tournaments, and registration forms for the upcoming Wrightsville Beach event, are on the Fisherman’s Post website. That site, by the way, also has a complete calendar of every fishing tournament along the North Carolina coast, including offshore and big boats, in-shore, surf and pier fishing, and special events for kids. Learn more at www.fishermanspost.com.
Need to know more about competitive fishing in our coastal waters, or looking for the perfect fishing accessories for your boat? Come talk with us at the MarineMax showroom. While you’re here, pick up a free copy of the latest Fisherman’s Post, too.
Thom Cross is the general manager of MarineMaxWrightsville Beach. Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, MarineMax is the nation’s largest recreational boat and yacht retailer. Focused on premium brands, MarineMax sells new and used recreational boats and related marine products and services as well as provides yacht brokerage and charter services. For more information, visit www.marinemax.com, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarineMaxWrightsvilleBeach or call (910) 256-8100.
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