Seventy-one billfish releases on light tackle is a pretty darn good day at most big-game destinations. But for the middle of August, off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, those numbers are just a tad off the norm. Several boats took advantage of their opportunities, however, and racked up some needed points on the leaderboard. They had to, as Builder’s Choice, the early frontrunner thanks to a 911-pound blue marlin, came up empty on Wednesday and have yet to announce a mandatory lay day. So the opening for a late challenge is there, if only for a crack.
Jay Jones on Point Runner (Capt. Chris Kubik) kicked things off just three minutes after lines went in the water by releasing a whitey. Although the big numbers never materialized for the 69 boats fishing on Wednesday, the action was fairly steady nonetheless. Dr. Dell Dembosky and his veteran team aboard Bi-Op-Sea followed doctor’s orders to get some R&R. The boat leadered six bills for the top daily prize and a cumulative total of 700 points, good for fourth place in the overall standings. Off Duty, the reigning Alice Kelly Memorial champion, scored four fish for the second-highest daily score. Katherine Anne boosted theirs by 350 points, including a blue worth an extra 50, to move into second place overall.
“I couldn’t tell you where we were exactly, ‘cause I was looking out the back of the boat,” says Jason Peer of Stuart, Florida, one of the mates on Katherine Anne. “Capt. Backlash (Daniel Davis) grew up fishing out of Oregon Inlet, so he knows these waters like the back of his hand. Most of the fleet was out there, but we were just on the outside. Every fish we’ve been bitten by got caught, so that makes a difference.”
Peer says they’re going to play their last hand on Thursday.
“I don’t think we’ll change a thing,” he predicted. “We pretty much fish the same way everyday anyway.”
The General padded their points with a couple more fish to move into fifth place overall. The boat had some special karma going for it Wednesday since it was Capt. Wade Fickling’s birthday. His boss, boat owner Zack Schuch of Raleigh, credited his skipper for the team’s early performance.
“First off, Wade is my hero,” Schuch says. “We had another great day today. The seas laid down this afternoon and we stayed off some from the pack. It was all pretty good.”
The General’s arsenal consists of a pair of dredges and squid teaser chains and naked ballyhoo for bullets. The buddy crew will rest up on Thursday before hitting the water again Friday.
“We want to fish the last day,” Schuch explained. “And our wives are mad at us,” he added with a laugh. “We need a double-digit day for sure and hopefully a blue one on top of that.”
With the big party featuring the Original Rondels rocking the Pavilion Wednesday night, the lay forms are stacking up in Tournament Control faster than November cordwood. But this current slowdown isn’t likely to continue. After all, the Gulf Stream Turnpike is just offshore and the blue and silver speed demons are revving their fins.