Home Field Advantage?

Professional sports teams always appreciate being on their home fields. The players are familiar with the nuances of the stadium or park, plus there’s extra motivation having the fans cheering every move, too. Better home records are the typical result.

Teams competing on the big-game tournament circuit are no different. Captains with local knowledge can make decisions based on collective experience to be in the right spot when the bite goes off. The PCBT leaderboard the last couple days has certainly reflected that.

On Wednesday, veteran skipper Arch Bracher and his crew aboard Pelican, a 56 Paul Mann, took top daily honors with eight white marlin releases, boosting their overall score to 1,300 points. But another local captain, Chris Kubik and his anglers on Point Runner, a 60 Guthrie, kept the pressure on by padding their overall lead. Point Runner added another six whites on Wednesday for a grand total of 1,700 going into the third day of fishing.

“It feels awesome right now, but we’ve got to keep it going,” Kubik explains. “There are a lot of good boats out there lurking, ready to knock us off.” Kubik said conditions were beautiful on Wednesday with smaller swells from the storm (Hurricane Gert offshore) spread far apart. There weren’t any weed lines or other structure so he started near the northeast boundary, where most of the fleet was congregated.

“I marked some bait and some fish, so I just set up camp to be ready at lines in. We’re pulling the same thing as everyone else. We had two squid teasers, two dredges and four dink naked ballyhoo. We didn’t add the big bait today. Capt. Lucas Jolly, my mate and back-up, puts everything together. He is the cockpit wizard and runs the show down there.”

Kubik, who mated aboard Qualifier for 10 years with Capt. Fin Gaddy, isn’t convinced of a local advantage because of the overall caliber of teams represented.

“Every day is tournament day with the boats at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and Pirate’s Cove,” he says. “These are some of the best fishermen in the world and we’re always competitive. I spent a lot of time in Mexico and really learned the sport from Fin. But if I prop my feet up and kick back in the helm chair for two minutes, these other captains will eat me up. So we’ve got to keep going. Lay day, what lay day? On a continuous clock, we can’t let them back into it.”

Capt. Scott Fawcett runs the Martha D, a 52 Viking. The boat splits time between Stuart, Florida and Maryland while competing on the summer circuit in North Carolina and Virginia. And even though he mated for Wanchese captain and boat builder John Bayliss for four years, Fawcett feels the local teams do have a home field advantage.

“The visiting boats don’t know the waypoints or the water and fish movements like the locals do,” he explains. “So that gives them an advantage. But we’ve got a great team and we believe in our stuff so we’ll get out there, probably off by ourselves and do our thing. Having the speed of a Viking is a huge asset, too,” he added with a grin.

Fawcett did say the dead bait or lures trolling format is an equalizing factor. Like the majority of the other teams Martha D is pulling one or two squid chains, two dredges, four dink ballyhoo and one big bait in her wake, all on Blackfin rods and Shimano reels.

When asked what it would take to win, he quickly replied with a laugh. “A miracle.” But on a serious note, he speculated at least 20 releases and more likely two dozen with the current pace.

That continuous clock is still ticking. And the pressure is on to catch and release as many billfish as possible in the next two days. Whether it’s home waters or not.