Don’t cry for SENSATION, Big Rock Fans

Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

Plenty of controversy abounds after SENSATION’s DQ from the 2023 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, including the boat’s owner declaring an official protest and securing the services of a law firm to take matters to court if his protest doesn’t result in overturning the DQ.

It won’t, nor should it. And it’s shameful that he’s even trying.

In case you’re not up to speed, here goes: The crew of the boat caught a big blue marlin. They brought it in to weigh. Tournament officials determined the marlin had been bitten by a shark during the fight. A rule in the tournament rule book, signed off on by the SENSATION and every other boat fishing the contest, states clearly in black and white that if a marlin is bitten by a shark or other sea creature during the fight, then it is disqualified.

So, pretty simple. Straight forward. No room for interpretation. Was it bitten by a shark or other sea creature during the fight? Yes. What does that mean, according to the rules of the tournament? That the fish is disqualified. Done deal. Sorry fellas, great fish, bad luck, thanks for playing and see you next year.

At this point, whether to entertain the crowd or to ensure SENSATION got a fair shake, the tournament weighed the fish anyway, then stated they’d release a decision about the winner in the morning. Many folks are saying this was a mistake, and that they shouldn’t have weighed it at all, since it was DQ’d anyway.

DQ announced next morning

But it was probably the right thing to do. During the night, the tournament consulted with fisheries biologists and the IGFA. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure that the two marks in question were bite marks, and not marks that were created by hoising the marlin into the boat. And this extra time would give SENSATION a chance to provide evidence that the marks occurred after the fight, and not during it. With several hours and all the evidence at hand, Big Rock released a statement Sunday morning confirming that SENSATION’s fish was disqualified.

So, even though all things pointed to a DQ Saturday night, Big Rock organizers decided to do a little more consulting, make sure they got it right, and again, give the boat’s crew a chance to provide evidence that those marks occurred after the fight, and not during. The crew offered no such evidence.

And in the end, the DQ was announced. 

Now, many Big Rock fans (fair weather ones at least), want to point to past winners, and how badly mutilated they were, and much more mutilated than SENSATION’s. What they’re failing to recognize, even when shown in black and white, spelled out clearly in the rule book, is that those mutilations occurred AFTER the fish were caught, tail-roped, and hoisted aboard, and during the ride in. In those cases the crew that caught the fish provided video evidence showing that the fish’s mutilation was a result of attempting to load it onto the boat, and of the wear and tear during the boat ride back to Morehead City.

Some folks say the 2019 winning fish even had shark bites on it. The win wasn’t protested, not even by the second-place boat of Rocky Hardison, who had more to lose (and lost it) than anyone when Top Dog brought in its massive fish.

Hardison’s words on the Top Dog’s fish, which video evidence shows was mutilated AFTER being boated, which doesn’t call for a DQ: 

“As for the comparison to Top Dog’s fish a few years ago, yes it was in worse condition but that damage was done after the fight was over. It knocked me to second place and cost me a lot of money. If I thought that it was any different, believe me, I would have protested it! Rules are rules and it’s pretty much black and white.” — Rocky Hardison

No sharks in the heart

It’s important to note that in the history of the Big Rock, more than once, captains have come in to hear the cheering of the crowds and the excitement of the emcee, only to calm that excitement quickly by stating, on their own, with no prompting from tournament officials, that no, we’re personally DQing our own fish, because if you look right here, you’ll see a fresh bite mark. Others have radioed from offshore, letting all know not to keep the scales open just for them, because their marlin was bitten during the fight. That’s integrity. That’s sportsmanship.

So what did the SENSATION’s boat owner have to say about the two obvious bite marks (that were confirmed as bite marks by multiple fisheries biologists)?

Something like “In our hearts, we never saw a shark.”

What? You never saw a shark? In your hearts? What does that even mean?

Okay, first, it doesn’t matter if you saw a shark, not with your eyes, not in your heart, not in your kidneys. Not seeing a shark (especially in your heart) doesn’t mean your fish wasn’t bitten by one.

And the odd statement sounds more like a cheating partner, trying to reconcile with the loved one they cheated on: “Baby, I mean, I did what I did. But in my heart, I wasn’t cheating.”

So, they didn’t see any sharks in their heart. Did they see the bite marks (in their heart or otherwise) once they got the fish onboard?

Ahhh, they thought it was just marks caused by them winching it onto the boat. Hmmm. Okay, wishful thinking. Let’s give ‘em the benefit of the doubt there. Otherwise, it would have been shameful for them to bring it in without alerting tournament officials to those marks.

6-hour fight wasn’t a 6-hour fight

Many Big Rock fans are stating the fish should count anyway, even if it was bitten by sharks, because the crew “fought it for 6 hours! And a fish can’t fight for 6 hours if those bites hurt it!”

Couple of problems here. First, who is to say a fish that fought for 6 hours couldn’t have fought for 8, or even broken free, had it not been bitten by a shark? But most importantly, those fans’ visions of the marlin running, jumping, diving deep, going from one side of the boat to the next, leaping high above the waves within sight of the boat, colors vibrant, muscles bulging, tail thrashing, the crew running about on the deck shouting words of encouragement, the angler on the rod allowing the fish to run, then making up line, letting it run again, gaining line back…well, this epic 6-hour battle never took place.


Turns out, according to interviews with the captain and crew members, the fish died and sank to the bottom in the first 45 minutes of the fight. The next 5+ hours, they cranked the fish straight up, trying to get help from the current when they could, carefully cranking while not straining their line too much, lest it break. 

And finally, after turning the reel handle for 5+ hours, the 600 pounds of dead weight was there at hand, ready to load.

In the face of these words, offered by the captain and crew themselves, the fair weather Big Rock fans say rubbish.

Emotional argument

“If the fish was dead, they could back right up to it and load it!” said one social media commenter. Oh boy, what a gem. Others said similar things “Dead on the seafloor? If so, it wouldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes to reel it right in.”

Well, some folks just don’t understand the dynamics of fishing for big gamefish, using line that is rated at much lower poundage than many of the fish you’ll catch, and how using the drag and the bend of the rod comes into play to tire the fish. And that tightening the drag means you can reel it right in quick, well, unless whatever is on your line weighs more than your line is rated for, in which case your line will simply pop.

Well, those folks just don’t know any better. And don’t know any better than to make comments on things they have no clue about. Plenty of folks like that in this world. Oh well, let ‘em speak. Just don’t take it too seriously or try too hard to argue with them. They just don’t get it and never will. Their whole argument is built on emotion anyway.

“Fish get bit by sharks all the time!” some argue. I don’t know how often big marlin get bit by sharks. Honestly, I don’t believe ones that grow to 600 pounds get bit by sharks on the regular, but I’m no expert at that. But it doesn’t matter. The rule book says plain and simply, if a marlin is bitten by a shark during the fight, it’s DQ’ed.

“But they were small bite marks, probably didn’t impact the marlin,” some are saying. That’s a crock, but even if it’s not, the rule book makes no allowances for how big a shark bite is. It states that if it’s bitten during the fight, DQ. Period.

“But this isn’t an IGFA tournament!” others say. It doesn’t matter. They reference the IGFA rule on shark bites in the tournament rules. Big Rock doesn’t have to follow every IGFA rule if they don’t want to. They can adopt certain rules from other organizations all they want, as long as they spell it out in their rule book. And they do. 

Shame on boat owner

Now, here’s the thing. For all those fair weather Big Rock fans, oh well, most just don’t understand the rules. Plenty of others see the rules but just don’t like that particular rule. Or they misunderstand the “mutilation” rule and refuse to acknowledge the part of the rule about WHEN the mutilation happens. Others want to argue the definition of the word. Doesn’t matter. The rules say if it happens DURING the fight, it’s a DQ.

But what is shameful, is a boat owner that knows the rules, and one who agreed to participate in the 2023 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, signing off on the rule book that all other boats signed off on, then turning around and preparing to sue the tournament after their fish was DQ’ed based on those very rules he signed off on. This freezes all prize money for the other competitors. Puts everything in limbo.

Chances are, he doesn’t believe all that stuff the fair weather fans believe. Chances are, he’s just playing on their emotions, hoping to garner enough support that the Big Rock will see fit to overturn a longstanding rule that his team signed off on before the tournament even began, or at least offer a settlement.

And that is shameful. Shameful to him. Shameful to his boat. Shameful to his team. Shameful to his sponsors.


UPDATE: After all this, the protest has been dropped as of July 11, with SENSATION’s owner admitting that the tournament got it right all along.

30 thoughts on “Don’t cry for SENSATION, Big Rock Fans”

      1. So by reading this it sounds like if they drug the fish behind the boat or mutilated the bite marks to the point that they no longer could be identified as bite marks they would be winners? It’s a stupid rule, in my opinion in any sport you can play defense and there is no defending against sharks when your dragging a fish behind the boat. Although I do understand the logic of the rule which is why I do believe they should not have gotten first place but after a weeks worth of fishing they brought back the biggest fish out of the ocean by 100+ pounds and it’s worth absolutely zero dollars in prize money? Meanwhile people are winning some sort of prize money with 15lb dolphin.. lol that part is a huge joke to me, don’t give em the trophy but my god give them (and anyone else who catches a 500+lb marlin with bite marks in it) SOMETHING

      2. You obviously have no clue what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut if you are so ignorant to the FACTS!!!

    1. So if Rules and Laws are black and white. That simple? Yet we still have lawyers? The simple answer is if anyone of you were in this position and losing 3.5 Mil. Who would not sue? Don’t responsed because as a fisherman in the big rock for years I get the rule but I still would call my attorney as black and white are not true colors!

  1. The gentleman thing to do would have been to disqualify the fish himself and not make the Big Rock disqualify it. I have done that with what would have been a winning fish in the past. That was before polygraphs but it was the right thing to do. What will be interesting is to see if he enters the tournament again next year. If he doesn’t agree with the rules then he needs to stay at the dock

    1. After it goes to the courtroom and the
      Sensation outcome is not ruled in their favor , the owner ,the boat and captain should be banned from being able to fish the big rock again !

  2. 2019 contemporaneous report that’s never been challenged: “But here is the kicker, if you were at the Big Rock landing when this marlin was weighed, you would have noticed that the fish had two large bites in it where presumably a shark attacked the fish in the frenzy of the 5.5 hour fight it took to get the fish aboard Top Dog. These two bites easily took 50 pounds off the fish if not more.”

    1. It doesn’t need to be challenged because it’s meaningless hearsay from a random blogger on the internet trying to draw clicks to his crappy website.

      Officials were shown video evidence and the whole crew of Top Dog passed a polygraph to support their story. The 2nd place boat, who lost millions as a result, didn’t even think of filing a protest. The officials, biologists and competitors that mattered and had access to the fish and data found the fish to be perfectly legal…but yeah, some dude who saw the fish hanging and decided to write a blog post about it is the one you want to believe. 😆

  3. RULES YOU SAY ARE CLEAR. WELL, CLEARLY IT SAYS YOU CAN PROTEST. YOU NEED TO ALLOW HIS DAY IN COURT. Btw, it also is clear from testimony top dog was bitten and not all damage was muffler. It shows pics of small bites. People this author is so one sided look at the data…

    1. Lol. What testimony? The polygraph tests from the Top Dog crew? Or the video evidence they presented to the officials?

      Do tell…what testimony do you have access to that the officials weren’t privy to?

    2. I just think it’s sad that a fish of that size doesn’t get its due credit. I mean if you pay that kind of money and you land a fish of that size, who cares. That’s one less big fish out there for them to be able to catch in a year or two and bc of a “rule” they don’t get to honor it. I’m not an animal activist so don’t go there, just think it’s time to stop being so greedy, it’s all luck, honor the fish/boats experience and change the rules.

  4. I just wonder if those who do not support the Sensation’s team if they would of been in the same situation and their boat caught the fish if they would do the something Sensation fishing team did.

  5. The right thing to have done is to have DQ’d themselves. They knew the rules, agreed to abide by them and that’s that.
    Says something about the character of the Capt.

  6. That’s the problem with everything rules are rules and they are not meant to be broken if you don’t like the end result !!!

  7. What degree of injury constitutes “mutilated”? That said, the Tournament was awesome and thank you to the Big Rock Foundation. Best wishes to all.

  8. I understand the rules, but I am not sure they make sense logically. If you hook a fish, any fish, in the battle to reel it in, you are subjecting the fish to be prey for another animal. You hook it, and the bleed attracts predators… that is logical and normal; it happens often. If the fish is hooked PRIOR to a shark bite, how can you know… less struggle?!? I would simply argue that isn’t the typical behavior across any species. A person intoxicated can be tasered or shot and fight twice as hard to get away… and please don’t argue this fact, way too many videos to show proof… why would a fish be any different to bring into custody? A boat is literally fishing with it as bait, while trying to reel it in. Just my thoughts! Don’t have a pony in the show.

  9. Just Curious: Why would a shark bite not be considered “an act of God”. There is no way the anglers on the boat could predict it or prevent it. It seems that if a shark bite occurs before the fish is boated, it is beyond the control of the team. Would it not be better to have the marine fisheries specialist confirm that the mutilation was indeed a shark bite (act of God) rather than mishandling of the fish by the crew. Please explain how any boat can prevent a shark bite while the fish is being played. Thanks JM

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