Several boats kept the pressure on Friday, closing the gap somewhat, but Katherine Anne maintained a commanding lead by adding two more releases to its tally. The 63 Spencer, with Capt. Daniel “Backlash” Davis at the helm, concluded fishing with 630 points overall to hold on to first place with one day of competition remaining. Katherine Anne will take its mandatory lay day on Saturday and anxiously watch the scoreboard.

Bullwinkle, a 57 Spencer with Capt. Dan Spencer on the fly bridge, was the top boat on Friday with five white marlin to its credit. Bullwinkle is also done for the week after a strong finish.

“We certainly enjoyed it today,” Spencer said. ”We always hope for more but enjoy what we get. We started off this morning by losing a nice blue, then we had a couple doubles followed by a single and lost a couple more. But we managed to hold on for the daily. There are a lot of good boats and fishermen left for tomorrow, so we’ll just keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.”

Spencer said the seas today weren’t bad, with some ground swell coming back in this afternoon. Although it’s still south and offshore, Tropical Storm Henri is expected to reach hurricane status sometime early Saturday and that could affect the sea conditions—and the bite. Fifty-five of the 81-boat fleet will be eligible to fish Saturday, the last day of the tournament. Lines go in the water at 8:30 and must be out by 3 pm. Up for grabs—$785,250 in overall prize money.

Seven, a 62 Bayliss from Palm Beach, Florida, scored 350 points on Friday to move into contention. Capt. Jimmy Hardee and his crew released four white marlin and a sailfish for the day. Seven is expected to fish Saturday.

Mama C, a local 60-foot Bayliss run by veteran skipper Rob Mahoney, also tallied 350 points on Friday based on time. The boat had one blue and four whites on its ledger. Each billfish successfully released scores 70 points.

“We’re in an OK spot and have one day to go. We’ll see what this storm does,” Mahoney said Friday night. Mama C scored a double white marlin release to start the morning, followed by two singles and the blue one to end the day. The boat was trolling a favorite spread of four dink baits (ballyhoo), two dredges and two teasers.

“I like simplicity,” Mahoney said with a laugh. “Our strategy tomorrow is catch more fish than anyone else. That’s the goal. But it’s tough fishing right now and I have all the respect for Capt. Jimmy (Seven), plus we still have to catch Backlash (Katherine Anne). So we’re going to do what we do and see how it pans out. It is what it is.”

Low barometric pressure associated with tropical weather systems usually triggers a feeding frenzy. But with little bait being seen and less than average numbers of billfish for the season, the final day of the 2021 VBBT will likely hinge on single digit releases and the clock. And time is running out.