By Capt. Dave Lear
Manteo, North Carolina;
Winners win for a reason. Granted, luck sometimes comes into play in this sport. But consistent teams are successful because of skill, coordination and drive. So it’s not surprising that two former overall winners—Uno Mas and last year’s top boat, Desperado NC—are currently in the top tier on the 2020 PCBT leader board.
Uno Mas (77 Mark Willis) built on Tuesday’s early spurt by padding its score again on Wednesday. A triple-header on white marlin with five minutes to spare certainly helped. Capt. Brooks Smith and his experienced crew are no strangers to high-stakes pressure. But with the bite turning on and others pushing hard, will “One More” be able to hold off the others? Will they lay tomorrow or try to add more points? Their challengers are not standing pat.
Capt. Rob Barker on Desperado NC, a 52 Taylor Harrison charter boat, won the 2019 edition of this contest. After Wednesday’s performance, the local boat is pushing hard for another trip to the winner’s circle.
“We had a great day. We started where we left off Tuesday afternoon and caught one quick. Then we jogged north and picked up a few more and finished with a double right before lines out. We had luck on our side, but my guys know what to do when the fish come in,” Barker says. Desperado NC finished with seven releases and 700 points. The boat capped off its long day by towing in a fellow competitor, Rigged Up, after it was disabled with a leaking transmission.
But another hombre made a quick draw in this mid-week shootout. Desperado VA, a 66 Viking based in Virginia Beach and owned by Joe Woodington, also found a finny gold mine and scored early and often before others converged. The team had an impressive tally Wednesday with eight billfish, good for 800 points and the daily win.
“It was awesome,” Capt. Bryan Peele says. “We had a triple early and a double to end the day and a couple more in between. The boat’s owner caught the majority of the fish, but the other anglers added to the score.” Desperado VA was pulling ballyhoo, with dredges, teasers and two lures out for bigger blues.
“It was slick calm,” Peele added. “I marked some bait on the bottom and some up high, but not a lot. There were a couple tournament boats nearby early, but they left. We only had two Virginia Beach charter boats around us, but after some radio chatter, more tournament boats showed up.” Peele has been fishing the PCBT since the late 1990s, starting as a mate.
“The competition is always very good,” Peele says about the other teams. “So to do what we did today was a fun reward for all our efforts.”
Which brings up a dilemma. The last day of competition is Friday. Boats are only allowed to fish three of four days and many have not taken their off day yet. The marine forecast is predicting the wind and seas to increase slightly by Friday. A little turbulence often brings the bait to the surface and enhances the bite. And fishing has gotten better each day this week. But quick changes in the barometric pressure can also turn things off quicker than a light switch. So 83 boats are rolling dice Wednesday night, hoping snake eyes don’t come out on top.