The Perennial Draw

Manteo, North Carolina:

To survive and thrive for more than three decades, a special event has to be…special. Such is the case for the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, celebrating its 36th season this year. Long known as one of the premier stops on the big-game circuit, a stroll around the tournament pavilion during Monday’s registration and tapas fest provided multiple reasons for its successful run. A few themes quickly became apparent, though.

Stream Weaver’s mates, Laser Simpson and James Turner, were busy rigging Spanish mackerel and mullet in preparation for Tuesday’s start. Both have been fishing the PCBT for 10 years. I asked what sets this tournament apart from the others.

“Because it’s home,” Simpson replied without hesitation. “You always want to win the one at home.”

“These are the best fishermen around, so there’s a lot of competition,” Turner adds. “I’m from Florida, but I always look forward to coming here every year.”

“This marks 26 years, the longest of any billfish tournaments I’m involved with,” says artist Steve Goione. “It’s personally special because I watched my kids grow up here. It’s a very relaxing laid-back atmosphere and that gives me a chance to spend time with the boat owners and crews. Plus, it’s only a couple miles from Wanchese and all these epic boat-builders. It really is the heart of billfishing.”

Sam Peters, president of Release Marine and another long-time sponsor, likes the setting and spirit.

“The Outer Banks community offers some great fishing and everyone is located in one spot,” he says. “The camaraderie is tight. Everyone comes to the tent every night to talk and connect.”

Raymond Pugh is on the Simrad ProStaff for North Carolina and Virginia. Simrad is the Diamond Sponsor of the tournament. Pugh has been coming to the event for the past six years.

“This is a natural fit. We make the best electronics for the world-class boats that are here,” Pugh says. “Some of the best billfish anglers on the East Coast are gathered here and this is probably one of the best places to catch ‘em with the short run offshore.”

Michael Harrell has been fishing Pirate’s Cove for more than a decade aboard his boat, Haulin’ Gas, a 57 Blackwell. His family is the motivating factor.

“My kids enjoy it,” he explains. “That’s why we fish it, for the family. The kids have looked forward to it every year since they were knee high.”

Capt. Fin Gaddy, skipper of Qualifier based at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and this year’s chairman of the PCBT board of directors, also enjoys spending time with his boys.

“I’ve got twin 11-year-old boys and they compete in the North Carolina Governor’s Cup. So this is a chance for them to rack up points in the junior angler category and it’s their last hurrah before they head back to school. So that’s why I fish it, for my sons.”

Relaxed. Friendly. Family-oriented. Competitive. The Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament has appeal on mulitple levels. And it all starts at 8:30 am Tuesday, when 71 boats go head to head with nearly $700,000 at stake.