“The Big Rock is the crown jewel for North Carolina and most of the East Coast.”
– Ven Poole, Waste Knot crew member
by Mimi Montgomery
photograph by Christer Berg
When the 58th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament kicks off June 10 in Morehead City, Raleighites Ven Poole, Scott Poole, Todd Saieed, and Joey McNeill will be there. For the 37th time.
The crew, which won the event in 1998, started fishing together as teenagers in an 18-foot Grady-White. They entered the tournament for the first time in 1979, following in the footsteps of the Poole brothers’ father and Saieed’s father, who also fished Big Rock. These days, the foursome (plus a few others) captain a 68-foot Jarrett Bay called Waste Knot. Having a custom-made Carolina boat in the tournament is just part of living out their dreams, the group says. “We put our heart and soul in (that boat),” says Scott Poole. They’ve taken it on fishing trips to Florida, the Bahamas, Mexico, and Bermuda.
When competing in Big Rock, a fundraising tournament that has donated more than $3.7 million to Carteret County and marine life charities since 1986, teams are allowed to fish four days of their choosing out of six between June 13 and 18. They’re vying for cash prizes – last year the total purse was more than $1.6 million – in a number of categories including dolphin, tuna, and wahoo. But the big money is in blue marlin. Only a few are brought back to the docks to be measured and weighed, and cash prizes are given to the biggest marlins brought in, many of which weigh over 500 pounds (the biggest on record is 831 pounds).
The competition requires strategy: Each crew is up at 6:30 a.m. and fishing by 9 a.m., checking the weather and deciding which spots are best to fish and on what days. The Waste Knot crew says they’re on it, and hopeful they might win again. But the most important thing, they say, is the time spent together on the boat with longtime friends and family. “We’re all over the place all year long, and when the Big Rock happens, we’re all together,” says Scott Poole. “This kind of brings everybody back.” McNeill laughs: “We’ve got the socialization component of it totally down.”
June 10 – 18, Morehead City; For results and event schedule, visit thebigrock.com