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FREEMAN 37VH- Big Rock Marlin Tournament (Update-PERFORMANCE REPORT)

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FREEMAN 37VH- Big Rock Marlin Tournament (Update-PERFORMANCE REPORT)

Old 06-21-2018, 08:23 AM
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Default FREEMAN 37VH- Big Rock Marlin Tournament (Update-PERFORMANCE REPORT)



Freeman 37VH at Atlantic Beach, NC for the Big Rock Marlin Tournament


FREEMAN 37VH fishes the Big Rock Marlin Tournament (WARNING!!! Long Read! but Pictures included )

I have been planning to fish the Big Rock Marlin Tournament for a long time and built my Freeman 37VH with that dream in mind.


See the World’s Greatest Center Console Fishing Boat thread: Building the World's Greatest Center Console-Freeman 37VH-Boat finally got Bloody!



I have done a fair amount of marlin fishing but mostly chartering with some top boats in Hawaii mainly Kona but also Maui, Honolulu and even once in Kauai. Although I have captained boats that caught some white marlin and many sailfish here in the Carolinas, I must confess that I have still never caught a Blue Marlin in the Carolinas where I predominantly fish even though I have targeted them a handful of times.

But a bucket list dream of all my great friends (Richard, Chris, Brian, Drew, David, Larry) that fished with me in the 60th Big Rock Marlin Tournament was to fish one of the most prestigious, oldest, most lucrative, and best fishing tournaments in the world against the best of the best. Could we compete? Could we even catch a billfish? Could I finally catch a Carolina Blue Marlin? Could we get up on the stage of such a renowned tournament even though it was our first ever marlin tournament or was that a pipe dream?

I booked a condominium unit at Atlantic Beach, NC which had a boat dock right out the back door which made it supremely convenient for rigging, loading, departing in O Dark Hours, and returning after a long day of fishing, etc. Brian and I trailered the Freeman 37 VH Quadruple Mercury Verado 350 powered Fishin’ Physician loaded with 540 gallons of fuel from Ocean Isle Beach to Morehead City on Thursday uneventfully as it pulled easily by my LBZ Chevrolet Duramax Dually with Oversize Load Banners and red flags adorned.


Saturday, we did not have lady anglers so we did not fish the Kelli Wagner Ladies Angler tournament which always precedes the Big Rock. We opted to not prefish and instead re-rig and rig up various components including outriggers, downriggers for dredges, lures, video cameras, block and tackle, rope come-a-long, flying gaffs, respooling reels, set drags by scale, etc. Chris did an incredible job in rigging up various fishing components. We attended the captain’s meeting and the impressive Cocktail Party of open bar and live band (excellent energy and music) and one of the best buffet meals I have had in a long time (kudos to the prime rib sliders and the lobster mac and cheese). We realized we had graduated from the world of King Mackerel Tournaments and had stepped up to a more refined, upscale, and well-heeled crowd with accompaniments which were also upscale.

On Sunday we attended the first Prayer Breakfast held by the Big Rock to honor God who created the land and the great ocean, and the great sea creatures like the blue marlin, and who created us. Then Sunday afternoon found us resting and doing some more rigging. Throughout the week we were also privileged to hear Randy Ramsey (Big Rock VHF announcer, and principal of Jarrett Bay Boats) pray in detail every morning at 7:30am for the fleet and Big Rock friends as the boats ran out to the grounds.

We took laydays on the two roughest days which were Monday when not many billfish were caught and on Thursday which was also slower. On Tuesday morning we left the dock in pitch black aided by the Rigid Light Bar (sorry condo residents and visitors), FLIR thermal imaging, and Garmin Open Array Radar. We fished off toward Hatteras and caught nothing, saw only a couple of sporties fishing the tournament. But the good news is that even though we caught nothing, although the fleet caught a lot of billfish, the Fabulous Fisherman (First marlin boated which weighs 500 pounds) was still wide open as it would be until the final day of fishing on Saturday due to the Honey Hush declining to pay $5000 to enter that category. On Wednesday, again we caught no billfish and the fleet did well again. We had a billfish, come up on one of our plastic lures on the portside and wack it one time, but then it was gone. The resin was scuffed up by his bill strike and I believe he took off after feeling the hard plastic.

On Friday after 17 hours of tournament trolling with no billfish catches, in the last hour of fishing, our fortunes changed. A big sailfish came up on one of my custom homemade hand-tied dredges and took off with one of our offerings. Drew was up to bat and actually had this big sailfish, which reminded me of the size of Costa Rican Pacific sails, on a Shimano Stella spinning reel. The sailfish made a jump far back off the stern and then freight trained off the port. Drew yells to his dad who is expertly manning the helm, that we need to go and go now while the rest of us are clearing dredges, teasers, and other rods. Brian driving perfectly keeps the sailfish off our port bow as Drew moves to the bow in tournament king mackerel fishing style and frantically reels to keep from getting spooled as there is now less than 25 yards of line left on the reel! Drew gathers line quickly at the bow and Brian drives toward the fish in true smoker kingfish style. I am at the bow telling Brian where the line is and getting him to give more rpms to move over the fish. Drew announces that he is coming up and I get ready as we have gathered all the braid and are well into recovering most of the mono. The fish comes up again this time off of starboard and I grab the leader. Caught sailfish and we are on the board! David is able to get it all on Gopro. Chris goes to the leader and releases the sailfish. We call it in excitedly to Randy. Fishin’ Physician is on the board and Drew’s fight on the 70 to 80 pound sailfish lasted all of 3 minutes on a spinning reel! Another outboard boat released a blue marlin, but at least we were now in Second Place in the Outboard Division on what was a relatively slow fishing day.



Big Sailfish Jumping while hooked up




Touching the leader on the Sailfish


On the final fishing day of Saturday, we felt more confident and were a little more upbeat knowing we were at least on the board. Our aim was to put a big blue one on the deck since the $500,000+ for the Fabulous Fisherman was still available. We chose to go toward the same general direction as Friday which was off of Ocracoke. Action started pretty slowly for the fleet. We struggled to clear weeds. I go to the bow and guide Brian to drive down a cobalt blue alley between two weed lines. Then a fish comes up again on my homemade hand-tied dredge and takes an offering on the short starboard corner. The fish stays down and is burning line off of, can you believe it, another spinning reel, my Fin Nor Lethal 100 with 80 Braid and 50 Mono and much more line than the Stella. I am thinking false albacore because it is staying down and is smoking line. Fat alberts always act bigger than they are. Then he jumps far back off our starboard stern. All right! Looks like another sailfish. I tell Drew that it is his hour and his fish since he is taking billfish on the even hours and I am taking them on the odd hours. Again he takes the big spinning setup to the bow in Kingfish style which would be difficult in the 54 and 80 and 90 foot Sportfishermen boats which make up our competition. This fish is burning it down differently and harder than yesterday’s saildog, but Drew is winding smoothly but very quickly. It jumps off the starboard bow and both Chris and I identify it not as an Atlantic Sailfish, but as a White Marlin. Chris dives to the bow and grabs the leader. Billfish officially caught. He makes it jump a couple more times for David to get it on film and then he releases the White Marlin which we note is actually significantly smaller than yesterday’s big sail. Congratulations to Drew who just caught his first marlin! Again it took only 3 minutes thanks to the team, the boat’s mobility, and Drew’s expert angling. The team is energized. We want to get Drew a big blue marlin to give him a grand slam for the tournament. Lots of other boats are hooking up near us which we deduce by way of clear VHF call-ins to Randy. Since a 400.9 pound Blue Marlin started the final day in third place for big money, anything close to 400 is getting boated and six Blue Marlin are boated including Carterican’s 500.9 pound eventual 3rd place fish and Fabulous Fisherman winner by less than one pound. When lines are called, Fender Bender is still hooked up and fighting a Blue one fairly near us which is the eventual second place fish.



White Marlin jumping off the bow of Freeman 37VH






My family flew in Wednesday and Brian and Drew’s families came in Thursday because they wanted to attend the Awards Banquet on Saturday night hoping and expecting to see us on stage. Our families have high expectations of us at times. Our whole team and our families who were present sat at a long table in the back of the room. Then one of my team found that there was a Reserved Table up front near the stage for the team that finished 2nd in the Outboard Division. We reluctantly left our families and moved our fishermen to that honored table. We were privileged to go up on the Stage to receive our Award, Gigantic Facsimile of a Check, several Yeti Cooler items, Costa del Mar items and a Luminox Watch and the satisfaction that we had an honored place at our very first Marlin tournament.



Reserved Table at Big Rock Awards Banquet



Got up on the big stage at The Big Rock Marlin Tournament awards


Yes, we all had much bigger dreams. But on the last day, it was electrifyingly exciting that we had a chance to win $1.25 million and the 2nd and 3rd place Marlins including the Fabulous Fisherman winner were caught near us as we had started to figure things out at the end. Sure for me there is some disappointment, but there is also a lot of hopefulness and drive to get on top.



In the initial invitation letter to my team, I proclaimed that we had assembled an excellent team and that we would enjoy God’s creation and the camaraderie of the team, and good fellowship. I also said there would be exciting moments and moments of boredom. And I proclaimed that we would all work together to accomplish a goal and have unforgettable happenings burned into our memory banks. ALL THESE THINGS that were predicted came true. I also promised that we would learn a lot, laugh a lot, and have a week that we would never forget. ALL OF THAT happened as well. Our team had a great and unforgettable week with great friends old and new marveling at God’s creation and sharing with family. Aren’t those things what is truly important in life? We feel truly blessed even if not completely fulfilled.



One of the quotes I used to inspire my team was the following I once heard from an inspirational speaker:

“If your dreams aren’t scaring you when you go to bed at night, then you’re not dreaming big enough for God.”

I’m still dreaming big! We’ll be back next year.



Some statistics. 183 Boats fished for a record purse of $2,560,925.00.

84 boats caught billfish. 99 boats caught no billfish. Only 32 boats caught more than one billfish of which we were numbered. 3 boats caught 4 billfish. 8 boats caught 3 billfish. 21 boats caught 2 billfish. All in all, we performed respectably in our first Big Rock Marlin Tournament, in our first Marlin Tournament. It will not be our last.







Onewolf, SEARAT36, Grog and 24 others like this.

Last edited by Kendall; 06-26-2018 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 06-21-2018, 08:50 AM
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Exceptional write up. Congratulations!
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Old 06-21-2018, 08:51 AM
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Pretty photos, and nice fish. I fish extensively, and have caught marlin, sails, dolphin, tuna, etc on my boat, but I don't get the attraction of tournament fishing. I've never competed in a tournament, but it seems to turn a relaxing, enjoyable pastime into an adrenaline-fueled competition to chase a check that barely covers the expenses for all but the 1st place finisher.

Congrats nonetheless on your win!
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Old 06-21-2018, 08:53 AM
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great job! fun diversion read at work
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Old 06-21-2018, 09:33 AM
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Great read, Kendall!
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Old 06-21-2018, 09:46 AM
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Both quick releases on spinning reels. Should be a separate category for that!

Could a 500+ pound blue have also ended up on the spinning reel if it came into the spread? I bet that would be a fire drill!
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Old 06-21-2018, 09:49 AM
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awesome story Kendall, thanks for sharing
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Old 06-21-2018, 09:58 AM
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Nice write up, and good work. Listen to the VHF all week at work
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:03 AM
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Good read and inspiring. No trouble getting out of 8 1/2 in that beast of a boat?
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:19 AM
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Saw you headed home, what a beautiful ride.

Congrats!
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:44 AM
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Great post. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-21-2018, 10:55 AM
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I’ve never caught a billfish or been in a tournament situation like that, but it seems like a good time. I would like to try it some day.
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:09 AM
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Congrats Kendall . No Spinning tackle next year .
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by ed d View Post
Congrats Kendall . No Spinning tackle next year .

Is that a new rule? or is that just some advice?
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:25 AM
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Congrats on a fun trip and new experience!
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Kendall View Post
Is that a new rule? or is that just some advice?
Just advice , again congrats
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by ed d View Post
Just advice , again congrats
We had our specific reasons and it worked out. If a Blue Marlin had hit it, especially a big one, that would be a really tough one I admit. Thanks for the congratulations!
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Kendall View Post
We had our specific reasons and it worked out. If a Blue Marlin had hit it, especially a big one, that would be a really tough one I admit. Thanks for the congratulations!
That's all I was thinking , would've been heartbreaking . Keep fishing the Tourney's - I liked the write up you did .
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Kendall View Post
We had our specific reasons and it worked out. If a Blue Marlin had hit it, especially a big one, that would be a really tough one I admit. Thanks for the congratulations!
Great read and nice job to you and your crew.

Care to elaborate on the specific reasons for having spinners in the spread? I've never caught a marlin or fished in a billfish tourney, so no judgement here. Just always like to learn about new and sometimes different techniques.
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Old 06-21-2018, 11:59 AM
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Cool Read, What a way to break in the new ride !
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