By Capt. Dave Lear
Manteo, North Carolina:
Local knowledge was a big factor on the first day of the 2020 Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament. Capt. William “Bo” Dobson and his family team aboard Haulin’ Gas, a 57 Blackwell charter boat based at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, jumped to an early lead in the 37th annual contest. Jordan Harwell was the hot hand as he cranked in all the boat’s early tally.
“We had a blue about 9:20 on a photo release,” Dobson explained. “It went from teaser to teaser and then ate a lure. All the rest were on ballyhoo. We picked up a white mid-morning, then a sailfish about 11:30. We scored another blue photo fish about 1 pm, followed by another sail at 1:15. We missed another white about 2 pm or we would have had a second grand slam. I’ve been fishing here since 1988 and slams are kinda rare, so we had a good day.”
Dobson said conditions were beautiful with 10 mph winds from the southwest. The team saw plenty of sea life, including bonita but no tuna. Dobson has been fishing the PCBT since 1991.
“I’m not sure local knowledge is that much of an advantage. The private boats have speed, electronics and top tackle,” he adds. “Those blue marlin with the photo verification really helps with the extra points. That’s big doin’s. I’m just hoping we’re on the leaderboard at the end. There’s a whole lot of good boats here and you got to have luck.”
Capt. Emery Ivey and his team aboard Fin Print, a 62 Paul Mann based in Morehead City, did pretty well for out-of-towners. The boat logged four white marlin on Tuesday for a total of 400 points.
“We had a good day,” Ivey explained. “We caught what we saw and overall it was a great start. We were pulling the standard white marlin spread of naked ballyhoo.” Fin Print plans to fish the next two days. Boats must choose three of four days to compete this week. Friday is the with the last day of competition.
Hammer Time, a 54 Spencer run by Capt. Austin Eubank, is also atop the leaderboard, based on time. The boat racked up 500 points after releasing five white marlin.
“It was flat calm, with pretty water,” Ivey said. “There was some bait, but not a ton. There really wasn’t a whole lot of life out there. The pace was nothing crazy. We picked up a bite every hour or so. We were in the middle of the fleet around the 100 line.”
Hammer Time, based in Carolina Beach, scored all their single fish on naked ballyhoo. Eubank has been fishing the PCBT for five years. His buddy team is hoping to keep the early pace going.
“There are also a lot of great competitors here,” he says. “It’s a tough one to win, that’s for sure. We’ve really got to find a blue marlin somewhere.”
Th quest for the trophy renews at zero-dark-thirty Wednesday. Ballyhoo are again the featured menu item; sausage biscuits are optional.