In the final minute of the final day of the 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament on June 17, 2023, SENSATION hooked into a blue marlin. The tournament’s official end time was 3 p.m., but with the boat hooked up with a single minute to spare, rules allow that fight to continue until the fish is either boated or breaks free.
After a 6-hour fight, angler Bailey Gore finally got the billfish to the boat, where it was loaded up. Then, the crew set in for the long ride back to Morehead City.
Once at the docks, the marlin was weighed. The scales pulled to 619.4 pounds, which would have put the fish atop the leaderboard for heaviest blue marlin, a prize worth millions of dollars. Also, being the first marlin of at least 500 pounds weighed at this year’s tournament, it would have won the Fabulous Fisherman’s Prize, worth another $720,000.
But, the marlin had two obvious shark bites, which caused the tournament organizers to take a hard look at the rule book. When it comes to shark bites while the angler is hooked up, the Big Rock follows a rule used by the IGFA which states that fish will be disqualified if it shows “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 reason for this rule is pretty simple. If you’re fighting a fish that’s bitten by a shark during the fight, it stands to reason that the fish lost the fight sooner than it would have if it had not been bitten by a shark. Therefore, the IGFA, and the Big Rock, doesn’t consider the fight to have been a fair one to the fish.
It’s tough to argue with that rule. This billfish fought for 6 hours, but who’s to say that it couldn’t have held out for 8 hours, or even that it couldn’t have broken free?
Granted, the bites were relatively small, but you’d have to be naive to believe it had no impact on the marlin’s ability to fight. And the rule doesn’t allow for judges to gauge how much of an impact it had, nor should it. It’s simple, if the fish was bitten by a shark during the fight, it’s DQ’ed. And this one was, on both counts.
With SENSATION’s big catch disqualified, SUSHI, a 57-foot Island Boat Works vessel out of Nags Head was declared the official winner of the Heaviest Blue Marlin category.
SUSHI pocketed $2,769,437 for the win. They caught their 484.5-pound blue marlin on Friday, hooking up with the fish around 1:43 p.m.
For full coverage of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, click here.