Always a highlight of the early fall fishing season in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the action slowed a bit for the fleet of 98 boats fishing in the 38th annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament. The ability to capitalize on every opportunity becomes even more paramount; few understand that better than Jr. Davis and the Wave Paver team, this year’s champions.
With Capt. Russell Sinclair at the helm of the Port Canaveral, Florida-based 77-foot Bayliss, the team released 11 billfish to rack up a total of 1,250 points over the course of three days of fishing. They swept first-place categories for top boat, overall points, Day One billfish daily and jackpot, plus the new winner-take-all jackpot, for total winnings of $429,747. Davis was the top angler of the week with six releases.
Mama C, a 60-foot Bayliss from Virginia Beach, Virginia, released five billfish, including three blue marlin, to score a total of 950 points and second place for owner Chris Perry and Capt. Rob Mahoney. For the first-place blue marlin and Day Two jackpots, the team earned $302,677 in prize money.
Brooks Smith is no stranger to the Pirate’s Cove tournament, having won or placed in this event several times running his own rig, a 77-foot Willis. This year, his team on Uno Mas made a late charge to place third with six billfish and 900 points, good for $160,400 in prize money. John Bayliss’ Tarheel and Trophy Hunter, captained by Kenneth Brown, took home the fourth- and fifth-place trophies, respectively.
Steve Ash Jr., fishing on Carolina Girl, boated the heaviest wahoo of the week at 59.7 pounds, while Zac Ludwin landed a 34.1-pound dolphin to win that category on Papa-Mac. Frank Adams on Ann Warrick outlasted a 223.3-pound bigeye for a convincing tuna win. The gamefish winners each pocketed $26,916. Fishing with his father, Capt. Fin Gaddy, aboard Qualifier, Brown Gaddy was the top junior angler of the week with his billfish release.
“My goal when I returned to the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament was to get the purse back over $1 million to make it a world-class event again, and we did that,” says tournament director Heather Maxwell, “thanks to all our teams, our wonderful sponsors, including Willis Yachts, and my great staff and volunteers. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year.”
A total of 252 billfish were released: 228 white marlin, 19 blue marlin, four sailfish and one spearfish.