The action offshore was unusually slow again Friday during the second day of the 19th annual Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament. Typically this time of year the white marlin bite is white hot. Instead, only 14 billfish were released, including seven whites, three blues and four sailfish. The final day of competition is Saturday.
Waverunner and Weldor’s Ark were the top two daily boats, with a photo-verified blue apiece. Going into the final day, the standings have Cuttin’ Up firmly in the lead based on their 612.5-pound blue boated on Thursday. Weldor’s Ark, Sally Girl, Mister Pete, Waverunner and Diamond Girl are next on the leaderboard, all with 200 points based on time and boat day.
Mercenaria, a 72 Viking, cracked the scoreboard with a sailfish earlier on Friday. Capt. Milt Sykes, the former captain of Victory Lap, the late Wayne Sawyer’s boat (one of founding directors of the VBBT), was part of the crew with his son, Capt. Neil Sykes, on the flying bridge.
“It was a beautiful day out there, with one- to two-foot seas,” the elder skipper said back at the slip. “The water was about 81 degrees. We saw some birds, we saw some flying fish and if you saw one or two billfish you had a good day. White marlin love 76 to 78-degree water. So I think the water temperatures are too hot and the bait isn’t just isn’t here right now. We did see a couple groups of yellowfin tuna and the sharks had ‘em all balled up.”
Sykes, who has fished the VBBT since the beginning, is still enjoying the atmosphere despite the slow bite.
“This is an excellent tournament. The camaraderie, the food, the people, the tent, it’s all good. I can’t say anything bad about it.”
Baxter Lusink, the sales manager of Bluewater Yacht Sales, another VBBT heritage sponsor, is another big fan.
“The most important thing for us is this gives us the opportunity to be with friends, customers and fellow fishermen. It’s more of a social event than sales. We get to spend time with people who love doing the things we love,” Lusink says.
“Sales come through relationships,” he adds. “So this allows us to be in front of everybody. The people come first. And then there’s the food!”
Release Marine, which builds fighting chairs, rocket launchers and custom sportfish accessories, has also been at VBBT since the beginning. Ryan McKenzie runs the company’s sales and marketing.
“For us, this is the culmination of a long season,” McKenzie explains. “It’s important for us to see our customers here fishing. The quality of the teams is as good as it gets and this is our core, a blend of custom and production boat owners. You don’t always have that.”
So regardless of whether the bite turns on or it remains slower than normal, everything will be upbeat as hand shakes, hugs and laughter repeat throughout the tournament tent at Rudee Point come Saturday night.