There’s nothing like first impressions. With a bite as hot as the blazing summer temperatures, the 33rd annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament kicked off with a thunderclap as the first day’s action drew to a close Tuesday night. Legacy, a 58 Sullivan owned by Blake Franklin with Capt. Jordan Croswait at the helm, put on a clinic as the team racked up an impressive 12 sailfish releases within a four-hour span. Chaz Hall of Seafort, Virginia, was on the rod for four of the acrobatic spindlebeaks.
“We were east of the inlet and Jordan put us on ‘em,” Hall explained. “We stayed right in the fish and keep pecking away from 9:30 on. We really had a good day. At first we were by ourselves but quite a few boats ended up around us before it was over. It was beautiful out there.”
“It was good fun,” Croswait added. “We had two doubles and lost four more, but we managed to pull singles out of those, all on dink ballyhoo. They were all sea turds about 30 to 40 pounds, but they still count. The bulk of the fleet was above us and I hope they stay up there the rest of the week.”
Perennial contender Uno Mas, led by Capt. Tommy Lynskey, kept up the pressure with a score of 900 points. The 68 Bayliss tallied eight white marlin and one sailfish for the combined score. Under the PCBT format, all released billfish (blue and white marlin, sailfish, swordfish and spearfish) count the same—100 points apiece. The time of release is important in the event of tie scores.
The Viking 72 factory boat with Viking Yachts President Pat Healey aboard, is also within striking distance after the first day of action. Capt. Ryan Higgins guided his team to seven white marlin and two sailfish releases, also good for 900 points.
“We picked away at ‘em all day with the first bite at 8:35 shortly after lines in,” Healey says. “We were fishing in 60 fathoms and the water was decent, with a lot of blue in it and a lot of bait. There was very little scattered weed and little wind, never more than 15 knots. All our fish were caught on ballyhoo.”
With a predicted shift in the weather later in the week, Healey said they would be studying the forecast before making a decision on which day to stay at the dock. The 72 boats competing are only allowed to fish three of four days and the lay day must be declared before fishing begins.
“We’ll be checking the weather and hope we guess right,” Healey says. “Right now Thursday is looking a little iffy.”
Rounding out fourth and fifth place in the early standings are Deep Blue with 700 points (3 blues and 4 sails), followed by Bi-Op-Sea, also with 700 to its credit (1 blue, 5 whites and 1 sail). For the first day, scorecards turned in to Tournament Control registered 162 billfish, including 80 sails, 66 whites and 16 blue marlin releases. No blues were weighed.
Game fish also count in this contest, with the top daily weighed tuna, wahoo and dolphin eligible for daily cash prizes. The leaderboard for all three categories was filled on Tuesday after the fish were weighed outside the tournament pavilion at the Pirate’s Cove Marina. Todd Nunn whipped the top yellowfin for the day while fishing on Mollie Whopper (Capt. Emory Ivey). His fish weighed 71 pounds.
Glenn Wetherington on Double B (Capt. Henry Smith) hoisted a 372.-pound wahoo at the scales, while Bobby Mendez on Sandra D boated the top dolphin at 33.2 pounds.
Will this hot bite continue the rest of the week? It is August and the forecast is calling for more scorchers. So drink plenty of fluids, wear sunscreen and stand by for more of the same.