It was game on Saturday as the 80 boats fishing the 15th annual VBBT took advantage of a hot bite and racked up the points with multiple release after release. But one boat really capitalized when a hungry blue marlin swam up behind the teaser and inhaled a circle hooked mackerel pitch bait. Two hours later, after the big fish made a desperate attempt to escape by ripping loose the gaff, angler Ed Groce had his second blue marlin and the largest ever. Groce’s father, Tom, owns Waste Knot, based in Manteo, North Carolina. Capt. Barry Sawyer is the seasoned skipper aboard the 56 Sunny Briggs.

“We were about 25 miles from Norfolk Canyon,” Sawyer said after the weight of 683 pounds was announced to cheers from the gathered crowd. “It came up to the teaser and we pitched the mackerel to it on 80-pound tackle. The fish ripped the gaff out at first, but we got it back and finally aboard.”

“That’s the biggest marlin I’ve ever caught in my life,” Groce added. “Someone asked Ed if we were going to keep fishing and he said hell no, we’re going to the scales.”

SeaHound, a 58 Core Sound Marine run by Capt. Mike King, was the second daily winner on Saturday. The Kure Beach, North Carolina team released seven billfish for the day, good for 490 points.

Diamond Girl, a 68 Weaver Boatworks owned by Clyde Bailey, Jr. with Capt. Gabe Soriente at the helm, was another one on a hot streak on Saturday. The buddy team released five whites and one blue marlin.

“We got skunked yesterday, but we had a good one today,” said angler Rod Holloman of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “We were offshore of the Norfolk Canyon, pulling naked ballyhoo. We got our first bite at 9:30 and the last one minutes before lines out. We had one double and the rest were singles.”

The fleet tallied 156 billfish releases and the one boated blue for the day (Waste Knot). Among those totals were 10 blues, nine spearfish and 138 white marlin. Only one game fish was weighed on Saturday, a 48-pound tuna caught by John Stukel on Top Hooker (Capt. Will Atkinson). Top Hooker also weighed a 40.1-pound tuna on Friday to sweep the category.

A total cash purse of $620,000, along with several large checks to the tournament’s designated charities, were to be distributed at Saturday evening’s awards dinner. The celebration takes place under the big tent just inside Rudee Inlet on property generously loaned to the VBBT by the McLeskey Family.