The Big Stage

If there was any doubt about a return to today’s version of normalcy, it was shattered Monday night. The 38th edition of the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament is back to glory days levels. A total of 99 boats have registered to fish this week for an unofficial total prize purse of more than $1.2 million. But even with that enticement, this tournament is a favorite event for multiple reasons, as a quick dock survey underscores.

John Mumford left his home in Quepos, Costa Rica to join the Haphazard team this week. He just got in Monday afternoon but has been competing in the PCBT for more than 15 years.

“I always love coming here because of the great fishermen and the camaraderie,” he says. “It’s one of the best fisheries in the world out of here and I always enjoy it. I suspect it will take a big blue and a handful of whites to come out on top. We can only hope for good weather and good fishing. Someone will find some.”

Mates Joe Bonvetti and Tyler Sudbrink on Obsession are optimistic as well. The team found fish in the Alice Kelly Memorial and are confident in scoring this week. The two will be working with their normal complement of tournament anglers.

“We hope to find a few more,” Bonvetti explained. “There are as many blue marlin around right now as whites.”

“Everyone knows the drill,” Sudbrink added. “But as always fishing changes, so the program changes with it.”

Thor McCormick is joining his dad, Captain John, for another shot at the title this week. The two have more than two decades of PCBT experience and fish Papa-Mac, a 33 Blackfin.

“This is a world-class tournament and the fishing is always good this time of year,” Thor said as he prepped the cockpit. “It’s also always fun for us being the small guys to go compete against all these big boats.”

Papa-Mac pre-fished Monday and ran south, where they found flat calm water, a few tuna and some bailers early during a fun family scouting trip.

“There were good color breaks with some nice tide lines and not much grass,” he reported. He also half-jokingly predicted it would take a grander and good luck to top the fleet this week.

Dan Hughes has been an indispensable volunteer for PCBT for 15-plus years. “All the people and the camaraderie” are what make this event so special to him as he scurries around the pavilion making sure everything is running smoothly.

“I like the nice vendors, the food, atmosphere and camaraderie here,” says Whitney Simmons, who fishes with her husband, Bubba, and their family team aboard Rare Breed, which is based in Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. “This is one of our favorite tournaments and we are looking forward to putting our junior anglers on some fish.”

World-class competition, a great venue, friendship, perfect weather and lots of incentive. All that’s needed now is cooperative targets. The big stage is set for an historic week in Manteo.