What is Big Rock? More than just a marlin tournament

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What is Big Rock? More than just a marlin tournament

What do Michael Jordan, 500-pound fish and Carteret County have in common? They’re all involved in one of the oldest and largest sport fishing tournaments in the United States, the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

An annual event that’s been taking over the waters of Carteret County for over 60 years, the tournament has long been a staple in the community and beyond, bringing in competitors from all over the world for a good cause and great fishing.

“It started a long time ago and it started with a bunch of guys who wanted to go fishing, and they went out and caught marlins. It was over 60 years ago, and the first prize was fifty one-dollar coins,” said Kelinda Rike, a real estate professional with Linda Rike Real Estate. “Looking back, it’s almost archaic the way they used to do it. They would have these boats with an outboard engine and just drag the fish back beside the boat because the boat wasn’t big enough to put the fish in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories of somebody coming back with just the head of a huge fish because a shark ate the rest of the body along the way.”

While the mechanics and technology have changed a bit since the first years of the tournament, the sentiment remains the same: reel in the biggest fish. Every summer, anglers flood the area for an entire week, setting sail as they try to bring in record-breaking fish. The event is a highlight for the community, as it brings in invaluable revenue to restaurants, shops, hotels, and more.

While the event is technically a competition, it brings in plenty of casual anglers, as well — many of which return year after year.

“What we see people do is plan their entire annual vacation during the week of the Big Rock, and they look forward to coming here not only for the fishing and the beach but also because it’s a time to see their friends that come every year, too,” said Linda Rike, owner of Linda Rike Real Estate. Most of them book ahead of time, so the charter boats and hotels know they can count on their service. It’s an event for family, friends, and the community, all tied together, and as soon as it’s over, people start planning for the next year.”

Aside from stimulating the local economy, the Big Rock Tournament also functions as one of the largest charitable organizations in Carteret County. Since 1986, money generated from the event has been poured back into the communities that dot the coast, whether to fund projects in the public interest or bolster local shelters and nonprofits.

“At this point, they have given over $6 million to charity. They’ve matched spending for projects at the middle school, they’ve sponsored shopping trips to support people after hurricanes, they’ve given money to the women’s domestic violence shelter —there are so many things that they do,” said Kelinda. “It’s fairly impressive, and it’s humbling and telling to know that they’re worried about conservation, charitable giving, innovation, making a change, and boosting up people right here in Carteret County. That’s over 30 years of given charitable contributions that go right back into this community.”

Linda Rike Real Estate serves as one of the many sponsors for the Big Rock Tournament, helping them bring in money that’s then allocated to worthy causes. While the Linda Rike team doesn’t decide how the money is spent, their link to the tournament helps them point people in need of charity in the right direction.

For example, after a contractor who was doing work for Linda mentioned his son’s baseball field was in need of a new concession stand, Linda suggested writing a proposal and submitting it to the Big Rock. The proposal was accepted and the funds were provided for the concession stand, providing the community and local children with a much-needed resource.

In the future, the Big Rock board hopes to continue growing its charitable arm and making an impact within the county. One significant way they were able to build buzz last year was through an unexpected celebrity participant with North Carolina roots.

“Michael Jordan had been fishing in a few other tournaments on the East Coast, and the Big Rock — while far from the only fishing competition in the area — is the creme de la creme, and people come from everywhere,” said Kelinda. “Michael’s outfit Viking, aptly called ‘Catch 23,’ was a participant in the 2020 tournament and even boated a blue which weighed in at 442.3lbs at the scales.”

“They’ve got at least half-a-million-dollar to million-dollar boats that they bring out, and all of a sudden you’ve got these people with deep pockets showing up in your little county,” she finished. “It’s crazy the impact that it’s been able to have.”

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