Friday Deadline

By Capt. Dave Lear

Manteo, North Carolina:

So it comes down to the wire in a tournament that historically has witnessed fortune-altering lead changes on the final day of competition. For the 24 teams eligible to compete on Friday—the rest have already used their mandatory lay days—it’s fish or cut bait.

Two made strong statements on Thursday. Sea Toy, a perennial contender, made a late charge to take the top daily prize with 750 points. Capt. Bull Tolson and his veteran anglers took advantage of their 10 bites to score six releases. The boat will be sitting in its Pirate’s Cove Marina slip on Friday, currently in third place, awaiting the final results.

“We were just about to the border,” Tolson explained Thursday evening. “It was good to get some bites finally and good to catch some. We stayed in one spot all day and never moved anywhere. We were fortunate to win the daily and anything else will be a bonus.” Sea Toy was pulling the typical five-ballyhoo spread with a couple of lures in case a bigger blue popped up. The 59 Spencer is based at Pirate’s Cove.

Sensation, a 52 Jarrett Bay, also had a strong showing Thursday with 750 points, good for the second-place boat for Day Three. The tie was broken based on time of the releases. Dale Britt is at the helm of the custom Carolina sport-fisher, which is in fourth place heading into the final day.

After making it back to the docks at 11 pm Wednesday night as the result of a Good Mariner act (towing in fellow charter boat Rigged Up after mechanical difficulties), Capt, Rob Barker and his crew on Desperado NC nudged into the overall lead with five more releases. The team currently sits atop the leader board with 1,600 points. Just behind is Uno Mas at 1,550 points. Both boats are laying to the dock on Friday.

Several of the boats within potential striking distance are still able to fish the last day. Builder’s Choice, a 64 Jarrett Bay and a former PCBT champion, has the largest points total at 850. With photo-verified blue marlin releases counting for 250 points and other billfish scoring 100 apiece, vaulting ahead is do-able if everything falls into place.

“We need to catch at least six,” explains Capt. Brent Gaskill, the boat’s skipper. “And we can’t choke when we do find ‘em. We need to get lucky. That’s the main thing. We’re going to focus on adding release points, but we’d definitely take a big blue one if it shows up.” Gaskill was expecting the seas to build on Friday but he wasn’t worried about that aspect with his experienced team.

Capt. Marty Brill, the long-time voice of the PCBT Radio Control, has been impressed by this year’s action overall. The 72 boats fishing Thursday added another 152 billfish to the grand total of 429 released so far. “The bite has been steady, spread out over a large number of boats,” Brill says. “But these guys have just picked and picked and picked at those fish and the daily overall numbers reflect that. Tomorrow will be interesting. Those within reach will probably keep trying to score more release points and close the gap. But those farther back in the standings are likely to be pulling lures, hoping to bring a big blue marlin to the scales. With the modified scoring format, that could boost points in a hurry.

“It ain’t over yet,” Brill adds.

No, it’s certainly not. But come 3 pm on Friday, somewhere east of Oregon Inlet, it will be.