06/13/08 — Artemis moves closer to Big Rock crown

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Artemis moves closer to Big Rock crown

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on June 13, 2008 1:54 PM

MOREHEAD CITY -- Time is never on the side of competitive fishermen, and this weekend will be no different for the anglers at the Big Rock Blue Marlin fishing tournament.

With only two days left, the leaderboard has tightened and the top boat, Artemis, is looking to pad it's advantage.

The Charleston, S.C., based vessel jumped out in front on Monday afternoon with a prize blue marlin that weighed in at 640 pounds. Darryl Reyna hooked the largest fish of the first four days in the final minutes before the 3 p.m. deadline and weighed the fish in as dark approached.

The catch nearly took three hours.

"We just couldn't get it anywhere near gaffing range," said Artemis captain David Copleston. "We didn't want to call it a big fish, even though we knew it was big, and as it turned out it was the biggest fish we've ever caught."

Named for the Greek goddess of the hunt, the Artemis will be the hunted as Saturday's final weigh in approaches.

Among the boats in pursuit of the Artemis, the Melina and the Lady Lou V are the closest challengers. The Melina became the first leader of the tournament on Monday before having its hopes dashed by the Artemis. With a catch of 555.5 pounds on the scoreboard, the Melina and captain William Burris must now search for a giant to regain the top spot.

Paul Spencer, the captain of the Lady Lou V, seized third place on Wednesday with a 553.5-pound catch. Due to poor fishing conditions, and a format that allows competitors to fish four days out of six, just 73 of the 177 competing boats decided to leave port on Wednesday.

It paid off for Spencer and angler Jose Valdez.

"When I got to our spot, I decided we'd fish it," said Spencer. "A few minutes later we hooked a nice big fish, so you never know."

The 50th edition of the Big Rock Tournament has seen good weather all week. With big numbers rolling on the scales, the next 48 hours should be full of excitement. Adding to the competition is the $1.8-million purse -- the richest in the history of the event.

Fishing resumed this morning at 9 o'clock. The champion crew will be crowned when weigh-ins conclude Saturday.