Fishing News

Big Rock Founder Passes

Bob Simpson had a vision of boosting the economy by highlighting fishing on the Crystal Coast. Sixty years later his idea has turned into the largest tournament of its kind in the United States.

Director Crystal Hesmer says, “It is with great sadness we have lost another member of the original “Fabulous Fishing Club.” Bob Simpson was a visionary and worked tirelessly to create what is now the “Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.” He was told it was impossible and he persevered. We were so excited to have him as part of our 60th anniversary celebration and it will not be the same without him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”

Simpson was a part of the Fabulous Fishing Club that created the original tournament. “Up until then we had never caught any marlin. Then a blue marlin drifted up on the beach. We had been talking about marlin and I was convinced there were blue marlin off here,” explained Simpson in a prior interview.

The club decided to offer local captains a cash prize to land a blue marlin. However, there were no sign of marlin that summer. The first blue marlin was landed more than a year later in the fall of 1957. And the rest is history. The tournament has grown beyond what Simpson ever imagined with a two-million-dollar purse and international following.

Simpson was the longtime owner of the famed “Sylvia II.” She operated out of the “Sanitary” as a charter boat before she sank during the “Great Ground Hog Day Storm” of 1976. Bob bought her for the princely sum of $300 as documented in his book "When the Water Smokes.” Syliva is known as the oldest fishing boat on the Carolina Coast.

In 2006, Simpson was inducted into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina's highest civilian honor. During the 1960's he was instrumental in building support for the creation of the Cape Lookout National Seashore and even provided the first tours to politicians in his WWII amphibious vehicle. His influence on today's Outer Banks and the Crystal Coast is absolutely undeniable.

“You know, I’m proud of what we did,” Simpson said in a prior interview. “And I’m proud of all those people who worked with us and after us because they stepped up to the bat. We were told it was impossible – and we did it.”

Simpson will be greatly missed by our Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament family. We are forever grateful for the time we spent with an amazing angler, businessman, writer and former United States Marine. Tournament Director Crystal Hesmer is available for interviews.

For more information on the Big Rock Tournament go to