MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY -

[DAY 4:] The second blue marlin weighed Thursday at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament is now in the top three, but it was just a few pounds shy of a $300,000-plus prize.

The "Ava D," a 61-foot Gillikin captained and owned by Jerry A. Jackson out of Havelock, hauled in a 491.4-pound blue marlin Thursday afternoon (pictured above).

(CLICK HERE: More photos of Ava D's 491.4-pound blue marlin.)

The weight is good enough for third place in the standings, but is  8.6 pounds shy of the 500 pounds needed to receive a $306,000 prize.

In first place is a 754.3-pound blue marlin caught by the crew of "Inspiration" on Monday, followed by a 606.9-pound blue marlin caught by the team of "Eye Catcher" also on Monday.

But according to Big Rock, neither the "Inspiration" nor the "Eye Catcher" elected to enter all levels of the competition. This means neither are eligible to receive the $306,000 prize for being the first to bring to the scales a blue marlin that weighed a minimum of 500 pounds.

The "Ava D" team was eligible for that prize, but its 491.4-pound fish did not make the 500-pound minimum.

The "Ava D" and its angler, Gray Hardison, boated the blue marlin at 12:32 p.m. Thursday and brought the fish to Big Rock Landing after 3 p.m.

Although "Ava D's" 491.4-pound blue marlin was shy of winning the $306,000 prize, it did edge out a 412.7-pounder reeled in by "Chainlink" Thursday to take over third place in the standings.

The "Chainlink" a 54-foot Jarrett Bay based out of Goldsboro, is captained by Ralph Griffin and owned by Wes Seegars. Their angler is Ben Seegars The team  boated its 412.7-pound blue marlin at about 9:25 a.m. Thursday and arrived at Big Rock Landing at about 12:50 p.m. They are now in fourth place.

(CLICK HERE: More photos of Chainlink's 412.7-pounder.)

The "Chainlink" previously won the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in 2006 with a 501.5-pound catch.

Still in first place is a 754.3-pound, 127.5-inch blue marlin caught by the crew of "Inspiration," a boat captained by Casey Wagner of Morehead City. The team's angler, Bruce Brown, hooked the blue marlin at about 9:48 a.m. Monday. The fish was finally boated at 3:34 p.m.

It's the third heaviest blue marlin in tournament history, behind only an 831-pounder caught in 2000 and a 759-pounder caught in 1993.

(CLICK: Full list of previous winners since 1975.)

According to the Big Rock website, Inspiration will receive $306,137 from the tournament's $1,395,825 purse if it can hold on to the lead through Saturday.

In second place is a 606.9-pound blue marlin caught by the crew of "Eye Catcher," a Wrightsville Beach-based boat captained by Burrows Smith, of Wilmington. The "Eye Catcher" boated the 114-inch fish at about 9:56 a.m. Monday. Rookie angler Randy Kelley, of Wrightsville Beach, reeled in the 606.9-pound blue marlin in just 46 minutes, according to Big Rock's website.

Now in fifth place is a 410.7-pound blue marlin caught by the crew of "Carnivore," a boat from Cape Carteret captained by Edward J. Petrilli. The "Carnivore" team boated the blue marlin at about 12:18 p.m. Monday and brought it to the weigh station at about 3 p.m.

On Wednesday (day 3), only one blue marlin was brought to the scales, but it did not meet the minimum requirements-- at least 110 inches in lower jaw-fork length and 400 pounds.

"James Joyce II," a 51-foot Carolina Sportfish captained by Troy Pate, of Beaufort,  boated that blue marlin. But because the fish was undersized, "James Joyce II" will be penalized 400 pounds for the tournament. Furthermore, 400 points will be taken from the team's total release points accumulated during the competition.

On Tuesday (day 2), no blue marlin was brought in to be weighed

Anglers have until Saturday, June 14 to catch the biggest blue marlin.

This is the 56th year of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. For the 17th straight year, the purse for the tournament is more than $1 million.

In last year's tournament, the winning blue marlin weighed in at 465.3 pounds and was caught by Hatteras Fever II. The catch was worth $474,050.

For more information, visit the official website of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.