The focus obviously is on fishing. Really good fishing, typically, with a hot white marlin bite and stiff competition. But the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament is more than double-headers, great parties, delicious food and nice swag. The underlying reason for this event, celebrating its 16th edition in 2019, is as a fundraiser for several local charities, with the majority tailored towards youth programs, community support efforts and marine conservation. It has been that way since the beginning, thanks to the guidance of the volunteer board of directors.
“All the current directors sit on other charitable boards and a few even have their own foundations,” explains VBBT Tournament Director Paula Owen. “After the tournament is over and we take all expenses out, leaving a little seed money for the next year, we make our donations to our four designated organizations. The remaining money is then split up equally amongst the directors, who then give it to the charities of their choice. So the fishing is the means for all this worthwhile support.”
The four main organizations this year’s tournament will benefit are the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula, Achievable Dream Academies, Stop Abuse and the United Way Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund, a support mechanism to help the survivors and their families in the recent mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building. The tournament will also be honoring the first responders who arrived on the scene and helped save lives in the incident.
“We had a goal of raising $1 million dollars for charity and we’ve reached that in our first 15 years,” adds Deirdre Bell, the tournament’s Marketing Director. “So now we’re starting on our next million and it would be awesome to reach that milestone in half the time.”
“We had 42 boats our first year and we’re completely sold out at 81 this year,” Bell adds.
Owen says the participants fully buy into the tournament’s charitable aspect. A large group of volunteers help support the causes. In addition to silent and live auctions, two separate raffles will be held for drawings for a 2020 Tomberlin E-Merge premium golf cart ($16,999 value) and a Rolex Submariner Oyster Perpetual Watch ($13,400 value). Tickets are $100 apiece and only 250 are available for each item. The drawings will be held as soon as the tickets sell out. You can purchase tickets online or under the tent.
“All the charities we raise money for are really making a difference in the lives of the local youth they support. So it’s an honor for us to continue those efforts,” Bell says.
But there’s an ancillary benefit to the VBBT, too. It’s helped to promote the great fishing available in the Virginia Beach area and has a direct positive economic impact on local marinas, tackle shops, hotels, restaurants and other tourism aspects.
“As the full-time manager for a local marina, we’re definitely seeing the trickle down effect,” Owen says. “It’s brought a lot of out-of-town awareness and new boats to the area seasonally. All the marina slips are full and we’re now seeing boats like from Charleston come here for a month or more to get in on the great white marlin bite.”
“The tournament is more than just fishing.” Bell adds. “But we’re pretty serious about our fishing. Virginia Beach is right in the middle between Ocean City, Maryland, the white marlin capital and Oregon Inlet, East Coast big-game central. So we’ve got the best of both worlds and some talented teams to take advantage of it.”
The festivities begin Wednesday night with registration, welcoming remarks and the national anthem, followed by the captains’ meeting at 7:30 pm and the charity check presentations. Fishing days are Thursday through Saturday from 8:30 am to 3 pm. The boats compete two out of three days with one mandatory lay day (Captain’s choice).
So let the charitable giving—and tight lines—begin. It’s all for good causes.