We are currently in the middle of the 2023 offshore big game tournament season.
Over the past 40 years there have been many memorable tournaments but several stick out as special. The 1990 PCBT tournament was one of them. Here is my recollection of that special event.
Fishing tournaments can be very unpredictable. The winners can be determined by either the last fish caught or maybe a last minute weigh-in finish. In the case of the 1990 Pirate Cove Billfish tournament, the winning boat was going to end up with both – last caught last weigh in.
It was a warm day for the 7th Annual Pirate Cove Billfish tournament in August 1990. The previous six tournaments were exciting events but for some reason this one just felt a little different.
The first three days of the 1990 tournament appeared like any normal competitive event. Boats crews were boasting and bragging about their catches and admiring each other’s flags. The crowds seemed to grow larger each day with the increased catches and excitement of crowning the winning boat.
On the fourth day of the tournament, we arrived early afternoon at the marina. Unlike the other previous afternoons, the marina docks appeared to be even more crowded than before. Most of the boats had already arrived at the dock and recorded their scores. And spectators were milling around waiting to see when the winning boat and crew would arrive.
Minutes before the tournament would end and the required lines out of the water, a rumor began to spread that a tournament boat had just hooked up with a possible record blue marlin and they were still fighting it. And then several minutes later the rumor was confirmed that in fact the Sea Toy was fighting what may not only be the winning fish but could be a tournament record.
The next report, thirty minutes later, indicated that the fish had been boated and the Sea Toy was headed in. With less than two and a half hours until the weigh-in closes, Sea Toy had no time to waste. It would be full throttle and the engines wide open from the Gulf Stream through the inlet and up the sound into the narrow channel leading to the Pirates Cove marina.
Could they deliver this fish on time? Would the boat hold up with this beating? Time and equipment were now becoming a major factor.
On the docks, excitement continued to build at the thought of this record finish. But also you could feel this strange awe overcoming everyone. The thought of being a part of this tournament with a trophy blue marlin and a last minute finish was just fascinating.
It was still early and the thought of this full size charter boat steaming full throttle into the narrow Pirate Cove creek to the hoist and scale with hundreds of spectators standing on the dock within feet of the water was not a concern to anyone – at least not YET.
Time was running out when the Sea Toy radioed in that they crossed the bar and passed Oregon Inlet. They were now heading full throttle into the shallow waters of the Roanoke Sound and straight into the marina full of expensive yachts and hundreds of spectators. Sea Toy called ahead and asked that all yachts be double tied and all spectators be aware of the huge bow wave from the approach to his slip.
As the huge vessel made the left turn into the creek, the huge hull seemed to be completely out of the water. The double secured yachts seemed to disappear behind the wall of water. Spectators were amazed at the sight – even ignoring several inches of water pouring over the docks and covering their feet.
The Sea Toy sped toward the head of the creek and with one quick turn she was backed into the slip. Within seconds, the mate grabbed the hoist line, fastened it to the tail and hoisted the 654 pound Blue Marlin to first place finish!! And a mere 60 seconds to spare!!
It’s been many years since I witnessed this amazing event. And I still get a chill just thinking how special this event was for me. I enjoy these tournaments because they are so unpredictable – and just because you don’t fish in it, does not mean you can’t have a great time witnessing the action.
The Annual Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament is held each year in August at the Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo, NC. For more info go to http://www.PCBGT.com
Will we witness history again this year? Got to be there to know!
Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony