It was a phrase heard over and over on Saturday as the 39 boats fishing the last day of the 2020 VBBT returned to Rudee Inlet—awesome. The fishing was awesome, the exciting finish was awesome and the job tournament officials did under very difficult conditions was awesome. By the time the scorecards were tallied, five boats were tied with 910 points. That adds up to 13 billfish released apiece during two days on the water. In a word, awesome.
Capt. Ryan Riggs and his family/buddy team aboard Full Pull (57 Croswait Brothers) scored seven whites and one blue, all on naked ballyhoo. Fishing just outside Norfolk Canyon, the team had one double and the rest singles.
“We were catching them one at a time, just taking it as they came,” Riggs said. “Our game plan was to have as much fun as we could to see where we’d finish up.” Conditions offshore on Saturday were calm, flat and beautiful.
Grand Slam was the top team Saturday, going nine for 12 on white marlin for 630 points. Capt. Dave Grubbs and his crew were fishing way south after getting some intel Friday night.
“It was sweet,” Grubbs said. “The perfect spot. I wish we had been there yesterday, too.” This marked the first time Grand Slam had fished the VBBT and the event made an impression.
“We had always heard the VBBT was the best tournament on the East Coast for its parties, so we’re sorry we didn’t get to enjoy that aspect this year. But everyone did an awesome job under the circumstances.”
Builder’s Choice, a 64 Jarrett Bay guided by Capt. Brent Gaskill, also made a last day charge. The team tallied seven releases for the second-place daily win to move into a five-way tie with 910 points based on time.
Don’t Panic (56 Viking) certainly lived up to its name Saturday. With Capt. Carl Beale at the helm, the team logged six releases on Friday fishing northeast but decided to head down south for the final chance at the lead. Beale is no stranger to the VBBT winner’s circle. He fished the same boat, then called Harbor Lights, and won the inaugural tournament in 2004.
“We started around the 200 line with about five boats around and caught one,” Beale said. ”But it was slow enough I knew we needed to move so we picked up and ran to the 050 line. We added another single, a double and had a triple with sailfish around noon. We scratched around trying to get another bite the rest of the day. We needed eight and ended up with seven. That’s just the way it goes.”
That’s just the way it goes. With 138 billfish released on the final day, it was the perfect ending to a very unusual year. It was simply awesome.