Putting August and Arctic in the same context is hard to fathom. Especially after the crazy, rainy summer of 2018 with extended periods of sweltering heat and humidity. But an early “cold” front blew in overnight Wednesday, prompting the entire 80-boat fleet to declare a lay day for Thursday. That means everyone will be fishing Friday and Saturday in this two-of-three contest. Winds are expected to diminish and shift to the East, which should bode well for a hot white marlin bite. Temperatures are forecast to be very comfortable as well.

This marks the 15th anniversary of this popular fishing/charity tournament. The volunteer board of directors opted to bump the number of invitations to 80 boats this year and all must enter across the board in the base and daily optional entry categories. As a result, $620,000 is at stake in the various jackpots. But financial incentive is only part of the attraction of the VBBT.

“We fish the South Carolina Governor’s Cup series every year, take a couple weeks off and then come up here to Virginia Beach. We’ll stick around until the end of September,” says Jordan Parker, a mate aboard My Three Sons, a 63 Garlington based in Charleston, South Carolina.

“This is my favorite tournament out of all of them,” he adds. “The fishing is good. They have good food, good liquor and the payout is good. It’s a lot of fun. There are South Carolina tournament organizers who come up here to fish this one just to see how tournaments should be run. It is really a good one.”

Parker expects Capt. Michael Mattson to turn the sleek Garlington bow to the left come Friday morning after clearing Rudee Inlet.

“If I had to guess, I’d say we’re heading north. They’ve been catching fish off Ocean City the last few days.”

The seasoned five-year mate will be putting a mixture of baits out behind the transom with mullet and ballyhoo dredges. One squid chain teaser will have a trailing Spanish mackerel while the other will feature a mullet. Four “naked” dink ballyhoo baits rigged with 7/0 Trokar circle hooks will be the offerings on 25- or 30-pound class outfits rigged with 60-pound test leaders. The arsenal is completed with two blue marlin pitch baits. One is a horse ballyhoo with a chugger on 200-pound leader while the other is a Spanish mackerel, also with a chugger head, on 400-pound test.

Boat owner and skipper Pete Manuel of Morehead City, North Carolina, has been bringing Delta Dawn, his 57 Island Boatworks sportfisher, to fish the VBBT every year since its inception.

“It’s well organized with a very good rules committee,” Manuel explained at Wednesday’s kick-off party. “You don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of boats and it’s a select list. The Board of Directors also give a lot of money to charity and that’s important to me.

“This is a good family event,” he adds. “My family and some long-time friends fish with me. Last year we won the junior angler trophy (Will Manning, Jr.) with a 2.3-pound dolphin. Virginia Beach is my hometown, so it’s great to come back here. I don’t know if I’ll ever win it, but we always have fun.”

Seventy-nine other boats are planning to have fun on Friday and Saturday, too, starting at 8:30 am. The competition will be keen and the “Arctic blast” should have the fish chewin’.