Capt. Bull Tolson, anglers David Biggs, Amanda Cofer and rest of the team aboard Sea Toy jumped into a commanding early lead in the 17th annual VBBT during the first day of competition. The 59 Spencer based at the Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo, North Carolina, released eight white marlin and one blue for a total score of 630 points. Billfish successfully released count for 70 points apiece. Tolson and Company reported the first fish about an hour after lines in and the last one about 1:30. Sea Toy was offshore early with only a few other boats around before multiple tournament boats converged. The 80 boats overall are vying for $620,000 in prize money. Eleven boats opted to stay ashore on Day One. The format calls for fishing two out of three days.

Mama C, a local 60 Bayliss run by Capt. Rob Mahoney, was fishing nearby early Thursday. The team went six for eight on white marlin, good for 420 points and second place. The boat’s spread included four dink ballyhoo, two dredges and two squid chains.

“We were fortunate,” Mahoney said Thursday evening back at Virginia Beach. “We had a good morning, then struggled in the afternoon. There were only a few boats out there at first, then the whole dang fleet showed up. Fishing slowed way down for us afterwards. Bull [Tolson] just kept picking away and was able to get some more bites. They did well.”

Mama C was still debating whether to fish Friday or wait until the last day to add to their total.

“It’s a difficult decision with only two days of fishing,” Mahoney explains. “You can’t afford a bad day. With three days, you have a chance to recover. So the key is being consistent.”

Traveler, a 58 Jarrett Bay based in Morehead City, North Carolina, also took advantage of their opportunities on the first day. Capt. Moon Crossman and his team of first-time VBBT anglers went six for eight on white marlin.

“We were fortunate to hook what we saw,” Crossman says. “The highlight was our hook-up 30 seconds before lines out. It was really a hot fish and that was exciting.”

Traveler was fishing mostly alone. Crossman marked a lot of bait below the surface. He believes it was squid based on area reports. Squid is a favorite food of white marlin.

“I found that bunch of bait and stayed put,” he said. “I tried to let the fish come to me. Conditions today were beautiful with seas less than two feet. We had mixed sunlight and light overcast with good visibility. The water was a nice blended blue, clear color. Temperatures were consistently 78 degrees.

“We had a good luck bird land on the bow early. I was hoping it stayed there and it did. We had two bites with our lucky charm.”

So will other boats jump into the playpen and make a run at the leader board? Or will Sea Toy pad its lead and never look back? The game resumes again at 8:30 Friday morning.