With the fleet scattered and reports filtering in, at first glance it seemed slow for the initial day of competition in 15th annual VBBT. All 80 boats entered opted to lay to the dock on Thursday so the expectation for Friday was high. As the boats motored through Rudee Inlet early Friday evening, however, multiple boats had outriggers lined with blue flags signifying successful releases and one—Katherine Anne—had a boated blue marlin aboard. When the final tally was over, 167 billfish had been recorded Friday with just one day of fishing remaining.
“We were pulling a naked ballyhoo on 40-pound test leader on a 25-pound class rod when that blue hit,” explains Katherine Anne mate Mike Fulgham. The 63 Paul Spencer is owned by local Brad Wachowiak and Capt. Daniel “Backlash” Davis is the skipper. “We were east of the Washington Canyon and there were a bunch of flyers everywhere. Gerald Foley was on the rod and the fight took one hour and 45 minutes.” That blue, hoisted aloft at the scales by a construction crane, weighed 440 pounds (113.25 inches lower jaw to fork length). That weight, combined with a white marlin release, gave the boat a score of 290 points for the day.
Another local competitor, Waverunner with Capt. Pat Foster at the helm, took the top daily honors with seven billfish releases (one blue and spearfish each, plus five whites). Released billfish count for 70 points, earning the 53 Bobby Sullivan a score of 490 points going into Saturday. David Parker owns the local charter boat.
“We got lucky,” Foster said as a happy group of well-wishers crowded the dock at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. “We caught most of what we saw on dink ballyhoo, with one double and the rest singles. We caught the first four, lost a couple and got the rest. We went north into Washington Canyon. There were a lot of flyers, I was marking bait and we saw some whales, a little bit of everything. We’ll probably end up back up north tomorrow. I’ll check the weather and we’ll go from there.”
Fin Planner (Capt. Chris Gornell) and Poor Girl (Capt. Jack O’Donnell) are right behind in the standings with 420 points apiece. Both released six white marlin. Waste Knot, My Three Sons, Underdog and Coverage have five billfish releases on the scoreboard and a few others recorded four fish.
Bob Tytus, fishing on Top Hooker, weighed the heaviest tuna for Friday. His yellowfin tipped the scales at 40.1 pounds. William Carter boated the largest dolphin at 13.5 pounds aboard Desperado (NC).
Saturday is the last day of fishing with an overall purse of $620,000 on the line. Will Waverunner pad its score to take the top boat honors? Or will another flurry materialize from the depths and catapult a different contender into the lead? By the time the August full moon is high in the sky, we’ll all know for sure.