Initial contact and actions are usually important in social environments. The same applies to sporting events. The team scoring first gains momentum, confidence and an early lead in points. So when a hefty blue marlin is hoisted aloft on the first day of the 2022 Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament, everyone takes notice.
Dock buzz was humming mid-Thursday afternoon as the word circulated that Cuttin’ Up had boated a sizable blue. As Capt. Nick Jones backed the 64 Viking up to the seawall at Rudee Point to off-load the catch, the initial length and girth were considerable. Once Weigh Master Randy Gregory announced the heft—612.5 pounds—that initial impression was confirmed. It was a trophy blue for an event known more for release burgees flying from outriggers than fish at the scales. Josh Bowen was the angler for the catch, with Capt. Nick Jones at the helm. The team simultaneously turned in a Lay Day form along with the scorecard for the catch.
“We caught that fish on a green Violator plug,” Jones said after the team gathered for the celebratory photo op. “We were working between the 833 and 813 lines in some pretty blue water with a little bit of grass. The water temperatures were 82 to 83 degrees and the fight took an hour and 45 minutes on 80-pound tackle. Josh has caught blue marlin before, but nothing like this one.”
VBBT has a graduated scoring system in the blue marlin weight division. Fish weighing less than 600 pounds count for 1/2 point per pound. Those over 600 earn a point per pound. That’s put Cuttin’ Up in a strong position with its single day left to fish.
“I saw the bite and knew it was a nice fish,” Jones added. “It only jumped one time about an hour in. The rest of the time it stayed down, so we knew it was a good one. Was it tough getting it on board afterwards? Yeah, it was.”
The family team has competed in the VBBT since 2010 and also fishes other East Coast events, but Jones says this one is their favorite of the season.
Sally Girl, a 57 Scarborough run by Capt. Jason Krahenbill, was the second-place billfish boat for the first day. Angler Kevin Perry whipped a photo-verified blue marlin, good for 200 points.
Waste Knot, a 56 Sunny Briggs from Manteo, North Carolina, set two single sailfish free after brief battles. Rob Barker is the mate on the boat.
“It was beautiful weather out there today, just not a lot of fish. We were pulling dink ballyhoo to score our two. There’s definitely not a lot of white marlin around, that’s for sure,” Barker said. “It’s a pretty dead ocean right now. We liked our chances with our two sails, ’til that blue marlin bumped us away.”
Approximately half the 84-boat fleet chose to stay at the docks for a mandatory lay day on Wednesday. Competition continues though Saturday, so most are hoping for an improved bite the next two days. There’s a strong first impression to overcome, after all, and it’s going to take more than a couple flashy pec’ fins to top it.