In an exciting last-day finish, Sweet Spot, a 62 Spencer Yacht, earned top boat honors in the 40th Annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament after releasing a blue marlin to boost its points tally. Capt. Chris Kubik and his team won first place boat, second place in the Omni Blue Marlin category for releases, top boat for Overall Omni Points and Winner Take All Jackpot, for a payout of $283,866. Holly McAlhany was also named the Top Lady Angler. Sweet Spot released 10 billfish (three blue marlin, seven sailfish) to earn 1,450 points for the week.
A field of 88 boats and 473 anglers competed in this 40th annual event, angling for cash prizes totaling $1,271,644. The tournament format this year offered two entry divisions for boats using Omni 360 directional sonar and another for boats without the sonar technology. There were no trophy blue marlin boated either, so those optional entries rolled back to the Blue Marlin Release division based on sonar entries.
Slow Your Roll, a 68 Viking with Capt. Jeremy Edwards at the helm, earned a payout of $113,021 as the second-place boat, second place Omni Daily for Day 4 and Omni Blue Marlin release points. Slow Your Rollreleased two blues and nine sails, good for 1,400 points.
Sea Toy (59 Spencer/Capt. Bull Tolson) scored 10 sailfish and third-place boat honors to earn $114,964. That tally also included first place in the Omni Daily and Jackpot entries for Day 4, plus third in Omni points.
Goombay, a 62 Weaver Boat Works run by Capt. Brian Peele, also finished with 1,300 points and 13 sailfish on its ledger, good for fourth-place Top Boat honors. The Viking 80C factory boat, with Capt. Sean Dooley on the flying bridge, was named the fifth-place boat overall and won the Omni Billfish daily for the second day of fishing, plus a payout of $12,941 for 12 sails/1,200 points.
Bullwinkle, a 57 Spencer Yachts run by Capt. Dan Spencer swept first place categories in the Non-Omni division for Overall Points, Winner Take All Jackpot, Billfish Daily and Day 4 Jackpot after releasing one blue marlin and nine sailfish. That effort earned the team a hefty payout of $205,190.
Double G, a 57 Dixon, was the second-place team in the Non-Omni division with 11 sailfish tallied. Adding first place in the Day 2 Daily and Jackpot, Capt. Rob Constantineau and his crew are taking home $90,440. Bi-Op-Sea (59 Spencer/Capt. Jesse Granitzki) won a check for $30,260 after scoring 10 sailfish for third place Non-Omni and second place in the Day 2 Daily. Yellowfin (56 Buddy Cannady/Capt. Hunter Garner) won $93,500 for second place in the Blue Marlin release and Billfish and Daily Jackpot for Day 3. Other boats winning Billfish Daily, Jackpot or Release checks included Marsh Madness (65 Islands Boatworks/Capt. Shane Brafford), Blue Bill (61 Briglia/Capt. Mike King), Builder’s Choice (64 Jarrett Bay/Capt. Brent Gaskill), Fin Planner (58 Buddy Harris/Capt. Chris Gornell), Redemption (54 Blackwell/Capt. Adam Pittman) and Rigged Up (54 Omie Tillet/Capt. Charles Haywood).
In the First Fish of the Day category, Salvation (50 Omie Tillet/Capt. Jamin Simmons), Carterican (57 Gwaltney/Capt. Lee Smith), Mama C (60 Bayliss/Capt. Rob Mahoney), Widespread (Crown Marine 52/Capt. Jay Watson) all won checks for $5,000.
In the game fish divisions, Brad Schendt, competing on The General ((55 Buddy Cannady/Capt. Max Weaver) captured the heaviest tuna at 59.2 pounds. Steve Ash Jr. whipped the top wahoo at 60.4 pounds, fishing aboard Carolina Girl (54 Hatteras/Capt. Jordy Croswait) and Angie Schumann boated the largest dolphin at 35.2 pounds while fishing on Play it By Ear (61 Viking/Capt. Ralph Griffin). The gamefish payouts were $23,516 apiece.
In addition to McAlhany, JD Stewart was named the Top Overall Angler with four fish, competing on Safari(72 Viking/Capt. Moon Crossman). McKenzie Gallaher was the Top Junior Angler aboard Watertight, a 57 Jarrett Bay run by Capt. Zack Gallaher. All three anglers won trophies.
A total of 408 billfish were released collectively (100 percent release ratio) by the 88 boats competing. That tally included 371 sailfish, 35 blue marlin and two white marlin. Twenty-seven game fish were boated, including 17 dolphin, seven wahoo and three tuna.
“What a wonderful and exciting way to start our 5th decade of tournament sport-fishing off the Outer Banks,” says Tournament Director Heather Maxwell. “The weather cooperated for the most part, we had spirited competition and a hot bite. Congratulations to all our winners. I’d like to thank all the teams for helping us celebrate our 40th anniversary, our wonderful sponsors for their support and all the dedicated staff and volunteers for making the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament such a fantastic success all these years!”