A brisk Nor’easter greeted the 79 boats competing in the third and final day of this year’s VBBT. Many headed to the Norfolk and Washington Canyons, but all the boats interviewed reported sloppy seas. The billfish didn’t seem to mind, though. In fact, the bite turned on with the chop and a total of 67 billfish were released on the last day. The tally included a single sailfish and spearfish, eight blue marlin and 57 whites. The leaderboard was flipping faster than a peanut dolphin as the catch reports filtered across the tournament radio channel throughout the day.
“It was a little rough out there,” said Chad Sanders, owner of Electric Bill, a 60 Spencer based in Charleston, South Carolina. “We had two white marlin before noon. We were marking a little bit of bait suspended off the bottom and the water in the Norfolk Canyon where we were was a lot bluer than yesterday. It looked like fishing would be more favorable than it was.”
Fender Bender, a 55 Jarrett Bay based locally, was the top boat of the day with four billfish worth 280 points. Elliott Curry is the skipper of the glossy blue-hulled sport-fisher.
“Conditions were rough,” said team member Bobby Whelan of Hampton, Virginia. “We got a blue one first thing. Then we had a double on whites and then a single right after.” Fender Bender was fishing south of Norfolk Canyon in 300 fathoms of water, pulling ballyhoo.
“There was a lot of bait on top,” Whelan added. “Two of the three white bites came on the flat line baits.”
One of the smaller boats in the fleet showed its mettle on Saturday. Evelyn Kennedy is a 48-foot Ricky Scarborough owned by Rick Robins of Virginia Beach. The boat is his daughter’s namesake, who was named after great grandmothers.
“We had a slow morning yesterday, working around 300 fathoms between the Norfolk and Washington Canyons,” Robins said. “We caught one blue on bait and 1/2 hour later had a triple header of spearfish but we only managed to catch one.
“Today it took us 5.5 hours at 12 knots to slog back out there. The wind was rank at North/Northeast. We expanded our zone where we left off up to 400 fathoms and caught a single white. One of the guys was watching with the gyro binoculars and spotted some marlin birds 800 yards away. We trolled over and got into dink dolphin and tuna. When we finally cleared those and put the baits back out, we caught our last white. Fisher Dedmond was the young man who caught all five of our billfish and he did an excellent job.”
The awards dinner, presentation and party was later Saturday night, with more than $612,000 in prize money slated for distribution. Raffle ticket sales, silent and live auctions were also on tap to raise money for the tournament’s many local charitable organizations.