Fallout continues over marlin disqualification

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) — Fallout continued Monday after an unexpected finish to the 65th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

The buzz revolves around the catch by Sensation and at least one shark bite on the blue marlin. The fish was hooked up Saturday around 2:15 p.m. and was not boated until just over six hours later.

The fish was weighed just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday and was unofficially a 619.4-pound catch. Tournament officials noticed the shark bite and announced the board would have to meet to determine whether the fish was eligible. International Game Fish Association rules indicate a catch would be disqualified if that was the case.

“OK guys, let’s talk about the rules here for a second,” said Tommy Bennett, a Big Rock board member at the time of Saturday’s livestream. “It would appear that this fish has been bitten by a shark.”

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament board consulted its rules committee, board of directors, biologists and the IGFA officials before announcing Sunday the fish had been disqualified and Sushi had been named the winner.

“After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both NC State CMAST (Center for Marine Sciences and Technology) and NC Marine Fisheries biologists as well as an IGFA (International Game Fish Association) official, it was determined that SENSATIONS 619.4lb Blue Marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal. It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated and there for it was disqualified,” the statement read.

“The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament follows IGFA rules regarding mutilated fish as outlined in Rule #23 in the Big Rock Official Rules. IGFA rules state that the following situation will disqualify a fish: ‘Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh.’

“The decision is consistent with prior decisions made by the tournament in similar circumstances over the last 65 years.”

Sensation owner Ashley Bleau said he’s filed a protest over the decision. Meanwhile, Sushi took home the $2,769,438 million top prize with its catch of a 484.5-pound blue marlin. Chasin’ A was second and C-Student was third.

Sensation Capt. Greg McCoy said they didn’t notice the shark bite during the fight with the blue marlin. Once they got it on board, they knew it was big enough to win. He also said he knew about the rule dealing with fish mutilation but didn’t have much of a concern at the time.

“I’ve never really been a money guy, but that paycheck would have been real nice. But you just, you know, we’re not gonna get our plaque on the Big Rock fountain there,” McCoy said. “it’s a tough pill to swallow.

“I’m not gonna say I was not aware of the rule, but I really didn’t have much concern.”

McCoy said he’s not sure if he’ll fish in the tournament again.

“You always dream about winning the Big Rock and I thought we had done it,” McCoy said. “I still in my heart, I know we won it. So everybody else knows we won it. The Big Rock committee knows we won it, but they chose not to honor that. So that’s their decision.”

Zack Stroupe, who is part of the Sushi crew, said bringing in their catch to be weighed at Big Rock Landing on Friday was the opportunity of a lifetime. He said they were unsure of what would happen after hearing about Sensation’s big haul.

“When I heard that, I was like, you know, about just passed out said, ‘you know, what a blessing’,” Stroupe said. “You know, I hate it for the team, but other boats have been in that position many times. It’s not the first time.

“So we’re happy to take the win and we feel we’re blessed.”