Numerologists would look at today’s date, the 21st day of August in 2021, and read all kinds of signs. That’s because 21 is divided by seven three times. But it only took two days for Seven, a 62 Bayliss run by Capt. Jimmy Hardee and his team to surge to victory. The boat released five white marlin on Saturday. Combined with Friday’s four whites and one sailfish, that was enough to surpass Katherine Anne for the top score of 700 points. Contestants in the VBBT fish two of three days and Katherine Anne was laying on the last day.
Electric Bill, a 60 Spencer based in Charleston, was the other daily winner Saturday with four whites released. Capt. Mark McDevitt is the boat’s skipper.
“It was very testy today,” he explained. “But we were still tickled to be a part of this tournament. We had a double and two singles, all on ballyhoo. The bait was scattered and would pop up every once in a while just to keep our interest.” Electric Bill was fishing around the 800 fathom line, just outside the Norfolk Canyon. McDevitt said visibility was limited to about a mile due to the rain, but they were alone for a few hours before more boats converged.
The Fin Planner team also endured less than favorable conditions on the final day of the tournament. The 58 Buddy Harris sportfisher from Nags Head was about due east of Rudee Inlet when the anglers scored a single and double-header on white marlin. Capt. Chris Gornell was at the helm.
“We did OK, but not good enough,” he said. “It was awful out there. There was a swell from the storm, but not bad. But we had torrential downpour and lightning all day. My anglers sat in the cockpit in that stuff and I felt so bad for them. We had one other fish come to the teaser but it wouldn’t switch (to the bait). That’s all we saw.”
Mercenaria, a 72 Viking based in Cherrystone, Virginia, also released three white marlin on Saturday. Capt. Neil Sykes and his team dealt with mixed conditions as well to score their fish. Tropical Storm Henri was moving north off the North Carolina and Virginia borders offshore.
“It was beautiful in the morning with a big ground swell,” he said. “Then it turned very soggy. We were in rain until 30 miles off the beach coming in. We never saw another boat until we got back. I marked splotches of bait and we caught three of four, jumping one off. It wasn’t too exciting.” Mercenaria was trolling about 20 miles east of Washington Canyon.
Rigged Up, a 54 Omie Tillet based in Manteo, North Carolina, also earned 210 points Saturday with three single white marlin releases.
“It was a nice day, overcast with scattered rain and ground swells from that hurricane,” said the boat’s helmsman, Capt. Charles Haywood. “We had boats around us and I was marking plenty of bait below.”
The 18th annual Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament wraps up Saturday evening as $785,250 in prize money will be awarded to the top overall boats. One in particular is feeling lucky, very lucky, with a healthy dose of angling prowess thrown in for good measure.
Please note: The excellent underwater shots of the white marlin in the gallery are courtesy of Jake Stiteler on Bonna Vear.