Hatteras Fever II, captained by Buddy Hooper of Buxton, took the lead at the midway point of the 55th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament when it showed up at the scales Wednesday with a 465.3-pound blue marlin reeled in by Taylor Miller of Raleigh.

Miller, a former Appalachian State pitcher, had never fought a blue marlin before, but he pitched all of his energy into the rod and reel and strong-armed his catch back to the boat in 28 minutes.

 

"I thought the fish might run out again … but it didn't," Miller said. "As a pitcher, I threw the ball hard to get it past home-run hitters. Today, I threw myself into the reel. The whole thing was surreal."

 

Hooper, one of the Outer Banks' best-known charterboat captains, started the day fishing south of where he wanted to start, then moved to an area where other boats reported seeing marlin. The marlin hooked up less than an hour later.

 

"We had (the fish) hooked right in the top of the mouth and he just got out and did a lot of shakin' and jumpin'," Hooper said. "The pressure of the 130-pound (line) really wore him out. (Miller) did a great job … he did everything perfect. He's a very good athlete, and he did it perfect."

 

Since there's no third-place blue marlin on the leader board, Hatters Fever II is positioned to win $491,297.50 if it holds onto the Big Rock lead for three more days. Sensation, which brought a 423.8-pound fish to the scales on Monday, would receive $195,702.50 as runner-up from the $1,154,625 purse.

 

Sea Spud, captained by Pete Bae of Atlantic Beach, moved into first place in the billfish release division with 800 points after releasing a second blue marlin Wednesday. Dancin' Outlaw, captained by Thomas Wood of Harkers Island, is second in the billfish release division with 525 points earned with releases of a blue marlin and a sailfish.