Builder’s Choice has built an early commanding lead in the 2018 PCBT, without a doubt. Owner/angler Harris Huddle only needed 30 minutes to whip a monster blue marlin that nearly bent the boom on the diesel Caterpillar power lift used to hoist if from the cockpit of the 64 Jarrett Bay. The packed crowd watched in anticipation as Weigh masters George Lott and Randy Gregory made the final adjustments and announced the weight—911 pounds. Cheers and whistles reverberated throughout the marina. It was the first billfish weighed in five years and combined with a white marlin release gave the New Bern team 1,922 points for the first day.
“He bit, I got in the chair and started cranking. It came in pretty quick and just laid on the surface for a moment and then took off,” Huddle explained. “We slowly started backing down on it until we got it close enough for the gaffs. I was thinking 750 pounds or so, but I was way off, fortunately.”
Huddle’s fish was caught on 80-pound class tackle with 100-pound main line and 300-pound leader, according to mate Alan Scibal. The fish ate a Head Sea acrylic plunger lure with a blue/green skirt.
“We were fishing up north,” added Capt. Brent Gaskill of Harkers Island. “It was really pretty day with great weather. There were a few bites up in that area, so we were hoping a big one would pile on that lure. It did.”
The other 56 boats fishing Tuesday weren’t trolling around in circles, though. A total of 98 billfish were caught on the first day of the 2018 event, with all but one released. In a typical scenario for this time of year off the Outer Banks, 91 fish were white marlin. Two other blues and four sails were also tallied.
Sandra D, with Capt. Mike Merritt at the wheel, was the top stick with six whites to its credit. Another eight boats are also nudging up the leaderboard with four releases apiece. Those boats, based on time, include Tail Gunner, Fin Print, Killbox, Sea Toy, Katherine Anne, Desperado (NC), General and Chasin’ Tail. David Turner on Sally Girl recorded the first fish of the day, a white, 10 minutes after lines in this morning.
“There were a lot of boats around us. We didn’t see any weed lines, we were just trolling,” says Sandra D angler Mark Schwartz. Schwartz has a home at Pirate’s Cove and has been fishing this tournament for at least a decade. “We were pulling dink ballyhoo and picked up a double, then four singles. We went six for six and didn’t see another fish.”
Will Builder’s Choice be able to pad its lead and make it impossible for anyone else to catch up? Or will another contender power into wads of triples and doubles? A grander blue is not farfetched, either. After all, it is only the end of the first day and the Gulf Stream is full of surprises. Plus, there are three more days yet to come.