Citation owner Michael Topp told WITN-TV that one of the boat’s hired mates never produced a copy of his license, which captain Eric Holmes revealed while taking the polygraph examination required of all Big Rock winners. Topp told the television station Big Rock officials then confronted the mate, who confirmed he had no license.
Big Rock tournament director Crystal Watters said a final decision was expected by 5 p.m. today.
Mates are the working class of the sportfishing fleet, baiting lines and wrangling caught fish onto the boat. Some are well-compensated confidants of the captain who are trusted to handle occasional charters on their own, while others work for meager pay and whatever tips they can scrounge.
Taking away millions of dollars over a mate’s license may seem like a harsh punishment, but the Big Rock sticks to its rules for a reason. For example, the tournament allows boats to fish on only five of seven days. Last year, some boats paid a second entry fee after the first two days were fruitless, re-entering the tournament for the final five days and essentially buying two extra days of fishing.
That loophole was closed this year, but with so much money on the line, any weakness in enforcement is ripe for exploitation. Even in the case of a record marlin, boated otherwise by the letter of the law, there’s no room for interpretation. What’s left here are the makings of a joint collaboration between Hemingway and O. Henry.
The marlin Thomasson, a retired Army officer from Richmond, Va., brought to the scales on Monday was 355 pounds heavier than the second-place fish and broke a 10-year-old tournament record by 52 pounds. It was almost twice as heavy as last year’s winner.