The crew of the Release wins more than $1.7 million on day one of the tournament. Image from the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

Captain Rom Whitaker and the crew of the Hatteras Village-based Release made a big splash on the first day of the 66th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament by winning the Fabulous Fisherman’s category and landing a cash prize of $1,729,750 in the process.

The Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s category awards a winner-take-all prize to the first boat to land a blue marlin weighing at least 500 pounds. To qualify, boats must also be entered in Levels I, II, III, and IV in the tournament, and pay a $5,000 entry fee.

The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is one of the largest sport fishing tournaments in the United States, and this year’s tournament has a record-breaking 302 boat entries, and a total purse of $7,560,575.

Host Tommy Bennett and first mate Cameron Morrow. Image from Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

The Release reeled in a 504. lb. blue marlin on Monday at 2:47 p.m. with angler Kirk Pugh, and the catch resulted in a large celebration along the docks of the tournament’s Morehead City home base.

Captain Whitaker, first mate Cameron Morrow, and angler Kirk Pugh joined Big Rock Tournament host and board member Tommy Bennett in a live-streamed interview on Monday to weigh in on the catch, and the ensuing $1.7 million prize.

“I’ve been trying to win this tournament, or just get a good place, for 38 years,” said Captain Whitaker during the interview. “These guys have stuck with me through thick and thin, and we’ve won with the Release a couple of times. We’ve won wahoo, dolphin, tuna, and we’ve weighed a couple of fish, but they just weren’t quite big enough. So, all I can say is the good Lord came and showed me the way to go today.”

“The person I have to thank the most is my wife,” added Whitaker. “She let me, 38 years ago, quit the corporate world and move to Hatteras and go fishing for a living.”

Although the event is based in the Morehead City area of the Crystal Coast, Hatteras Village also serves as a launching and docking spot during the tournament, which targets blue marlins over roughly a week of offshore fishing.

2024’s Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament has six total days of fishing, with the last day landing on Saturday, June 15.

To keep up with the action of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, check out their website or their Facebook page. The video of the Release’s $1.7 win and Monday afternoon interview can also be viewed on YouTube.

Photo by Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

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