August 11, 2015; Manteo, North Carolina:
By Capt. Dave Lear
It’s time, as the saying goes, to fish or cut bait.
With all but three of the 56-boat PCBT fleet choosing to stay at the dock Tuesday with an elective lay day, the rest of the week will be pure, OBX-style, hardcore fishing. At stake? Just bragging rights for the next 12 months and more than $467,000 in pocket change, that’s all. Fin Planner grabbed an early lead by releasing a blue and white marlin on Tuesday, good for 200 points. Armada and Sea Rounds also braved the elements with nothing to show for their efforts. The remaining boats watched the weather, consulted sea surface charts, tightened reel drags and stared a lot at ticking clocks.
Under the revised tournament rules, at least 10 percent of the fleet must fish each day to award a daily jackpot. So with nothing paid out Tuesday (other than $5,000 for Fin Planner’s first fish), that money is now evenly divided over the next three days for a $45,000 daily payout. It will be split 70/30 between the first and second-place boats. The forecast looks good with a prevailing northeast wind, which tends to blow the bait inshore so Tournament Director Heather Maxwell is expecting a lot of action.
“Having the lay day the first day of the tournament is kinda weird, but hopefully this wind will stir things up and get the fish chewin’,” she said as the second night of food, music and festivities was getting underway in the Pavilion at the Pirate’s Cove Marina. In previous years at least a dozen marlin releases were necessary to win this event, she explained. But a new rule giving an added point-per-pound bonus to blue marlin exceeding 700 pounds adds another wrinkle.
“I think people like that change,” she said. “A real trophy fish should be the big winner.” Blue marlin under 110 inches in length, white marlin, sailfish, spearfish and swordfish score 100 points for every successful release. Looking for any competitive edge, some private boats have hired “ringers” or professional outside mates to help tip the odds. The limit is set at two, however.
“There was some pretty good fishing last week in Virginia Beach, so maybe it’s our turn now,” says Junior Jarvis, a temporary mate on Rigged Up, a 50 Omie Tillet. Jarvis grew up in the area and commercially fishes when he’s not rigging baits or adding Sea Witches to a dredge.
“There’s been some whites and blues around and the weather looks good,” he says. “When we find ‘em, we just can’t miss.’
“We’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity we get,” adds fellow Rigged Up mate Richard Wright. “If we don’t, another boat will.”
Come Wednesday morning, once the spreads are set, the real game begins. Will Fin Planner stay hot or will another contender or two emerge? However it plays out, for the next three days it’ll be show time at the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament. With all hands on deck.