The weather-guessers never make it easy for anglers, especially with six-figure payouts on the line. But when tournament rules require choosing one mandatory lay day, something has to be the determining factor and the forecast is usually the culprit. As it turns out, seas weren’t too sloppy on Friday and there’s more of the same predicted for the last day of the 2023 contest. Eighteen boats elected to fish today, which means the remaining 57 will be trying to add to their totals tomorrow.

Rigged Up (54 Omie Tillet/Capt. Charles Haywood) made a charge up the leaderboard with four sailfish releases for day’s tally, giving the team 490 points overall, good for second place heading into the last day. Rigged Up is finished for the week.

Home Run, a 60 Spencer, also had a productive last day of the work week.

“it was beautiful out there,” says Home Run’s skipper, Capt. Grant Bentley. “Everything was an onshore breeze and once we got offshore it was slick calm. About 1:30 the fan turned on, but it still wasn’t bad on the way in.”

Home Run released a blue marlin early in the morning and then scored two sails from a triple-header later. A yellowfin tuna about 50 pounds rounded out the catch. Bentley was pulling four naked ballyhoo and two lures.

“I was lucky and found the right spot,” he says. “There was all kinds of life in one little area—birds, bait, weeds and breaks. I just stumbled on it and that helped out a lot.”

Lay days in the marinas don’t necessarily mean sleeping in. The idle fleet took the opportunity to prep for Saturday’s action.

“It was peaceful and I did a little bit of everything,” says Capt. Daniel Caison on All In, a 58-foot Blackwell based at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. “I did some boat maintenance, cleaned up, rigged some tackle and did a little shopping. My plan for tomorrow is fish like any other day. We’ll stick with what we do and try to get some bites.” Caison’s typical spread is four dink baits (ballyhoo) and one hookless lure for a teaser.

“This tournament always has pretty stiff competition,” he adds. “There are a lot of really good fishermen, so you’ve got to respect that and get after it.”

Capt. Rob Mahoney, skipper on Mama C, a 60 Bayliss, was in the engine room Friday while his team enjoyed tubing on nearby backwaters. He’s geared up and ready for a final push.

“We’ll get out there and pray we get a couple bites and make ‘em count. Fishing has been tough,” Mahoney says. Mama C released a blue marlin and sailfish yesterday.

“We’ve really scaled back because this is a different fishery than the usual white marlin bite. We’ve gone to smaller hooks, smaller ballyhoo, 40-pound leaders and 6/0 hooks with lighter rods and soft tips to try and stay tight with these sailfish. The water is so much warmer than normal. But we’re all in the same position. If we catch a verified blue and score a few sails, we’re right back in it.”

Casual Friday is slowly winding down, despite the on-going revelry inside the big tent. In just a few hours, though, it will be Showtime Saturday for the majority of the VBBT fleet.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Home Run, Mama C and Capt. Dave Lear