With the majority of the fleet electing to stay in port, compounded by thunderstorms, the bite was a little off on Thursday, the next to last day of the 2016 Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament. Still, a total of 77 billfish were wired and released, including 54 sailfish, 20 whites and three blue marlin.
Sea Toy, a 59 Paul Spencer with Capt. Bull Tolson on the throttles, was the top team with six sails and two whites, good for 800 points and the daily win. Annie O, a 42 Bertram with Whitt Brown as skipper, had the next best tally with five sails and two whites. In the optional entry category, however, Mollie Whopper earned second place money with five sails. Country Girl also made a strong push with five sails and several other boats scored four billfish for the day.
Rigged Up, Wednesday’s hot boat, added to its total with five more sailfish, giving them the overall lead with 1,600 points. Legacy also padded its score with another sail, good for second place with 1,400 points. Rigged Up and Legacy are both forced to take the mandatory lay day on Friday, so their totals are final. Uno Mas remains in third place with 1,300 points. There were no changes to the overall game fish standings on Thursday.
The tournament pavilion was bustling after lines out with showers soaking the docks and outside exhibits. PCBT Host Bacardi was cheerfully serving up cool libations to wash down delicious appetizers. Platinum sponsors Simrad and Release Marine were answering questions about sophisticated electronics and gleaming fighting chairs from the inquisitive. The dozens of other sponsors who all make this tournament possible were doing the same. And in the far corner, near the stage, PCBT Tournament Artist Steve Goione was tidying his display of fish and boat prints, just as he has for the past 23 years.
“I love coming to this tournament because it’s a wonderful mix,” Goione says. “It has a very high level of competition among the top crews in the world, yet it still has the aura of a week-long summer vacation on the Outer Banks. There’s just nothing else like it.”
Each year Goione does the original art for the Alice Kelly Ladies Tournament as well as the PCBT. Those images are then used for apparel, stickers and even billboards to promote the events. The soft-spoken illustrator studied graphic design and marketing at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.
“If I couldn’t be the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees, I would be doing something creative,” he explains with a chuckle. “I minored in illustration and my life-long love of fishing just led me to this.”
Goione grew up fishing the inshore and nearshore waters of the New Jersey coast. His parents gave him a wooden jon boat with oars and a life jacket in his pre-teens, provided it was only used in the shallow tidal lagoon. Instead of setting up a Kool Aid stand every summer, he collected shedder crabs. He sold the live ones to restaurants and the dead ones to the local tackle shops.
While on a friend’s boat targeting big-eye tuna in Toms Canyon one October, he was handed the rod after a strike. It turned out to be his first billfish, a sail. That prompted his offshore passion and eventually led to an artistic career. In addition to creating big game art for individuals, Goione does a great deal of commissioned work for boat builders. His pen and ink drawings were also used to illustrate the recently published Tales of the Gladiator, Zane Grey’s log of swordfishing off the California coast in the 1920s. Angling continues to be Goione’s biggest source of inspiration.
“I really enjoyed fishing in Kona with some of the top captains there,” he says. “But my most memorable trip had to be in Costa Rica during the Los Sueños tournament last March. I was fishing on Jaruco, a 68 Weaver run by Capt. Tyler Andresen. We caught 10 sails that morning when the bite turned off. We checked out another spot, then returned to where we started. Between 1:30 and lines out we released 43 sailfish. We had five on three different times. The teamwork and camaraderie was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was an absolutely incredible day.”
While Goione admits Pirate’s Cove is a good sales venue for his art, this tournament also has strong sentimental value.
“I’ve built some wonderful relationships here over the years,” he says. “This event has become like a family reunion. I’ve made some life-long friendships and I look forward to coming back every August to see everyone.”