Desperado ain’t out riding fences no more. The Manteo-based charter boat, a 56-foot Taylor Harrison run by Capt. Rob Barker, went wire to wire to win the 36th annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament. The team added a confirmed blue marlin and sailfish on Friday to accrue 1,000 points overall, good for a payout of $198,519. Jeff James and Braxton Rigsbee are the mates and the anglers included Mickey Carter, Jeff Craven, Craig Sudbrink, Billy Carter, Andy Gay and Ron Wade.
Desperado was the top boat with seven billfish releases (two confirmed blue marlin and five sailfish). The boat also won additional jackpots for points and the Day 1 billfish daily.
“This is the most memorable win for me since the Pirate’s Cove is our local tournament,” Barker said after the awards banquet Friday night. “It really means a lot. My mates and crew did a great job. I’ve been fishing with some of these guys since I was a mate.”
The General, a 55 Buddy Cannady based in Morehead City, NC and run by Capt. Wade Fickling, earned second place boat honors with its last day rally of a verified blue marlin and two sailfish. The General won $104,542.50 by releasing six billfish overall, good for 900 points. Alberto Ramos and Trey Sadler are the mates and the anglers included Brandon Barham, Andrew Farrar, Brad Schendt, Thomas Eller, Adam Johnson and Zack Schuch.
Skirt Chaser, another Buddy Cannady (53 foot) with local Barry Daniels at the helm also earned some serious coin for the week—$136,343–for releasing four billfish. John Elvers, Justin Huntley, Lanier Riddick, Dennis Fitzgerald, and Dillon Jones manned the rods, while mates Billy Dickerson and Gunner Jones worked the ‘pit.
Natural, a 56 Ricky Scarborough (Capt. Carl Beale) was named the fourth place boat with four billfish releases, while Sea Toy, a 59 Spencer Yachts (Capt. Bull Tolson) was fifth with seven releases. Dan Stephano earned the Top Angler Trophy with three sailfish released while fishing on Sea Toy.
Since nearly the entire fleet chose to lay on Day Two, the two-place daily jackpots were split over the three remaining fish days. In addition to Desperado NC and Skirt Chaser, the payouts went to Uno Mas as the top boat for Day 3. Second place prizes ($17,085) went to Fender Bender, Goombay and Pelican. Fin Planner was the top boat in the blue marlin release points, winning $83,300, while Sandra D, Skirt Chaser and Bi-Op-Sea earned money for releasing the first billfish each fishing day.
Owen Maxwell and his team on Ann Warwick, a 76 Paul Mann, are taking home $9,775 for boating the largest tuna in the winner-take-all jackpot. Maxwell’s bigeye tipped the scales at 114.6 pounds. J&B, a 55 Wanchese, scored the largest dolphin of the week, a bull at 45.6 pounds, also worth $9,775, while Triple “S”, a 60 Viking, boated the top wahoo at 54.8 pounds.
Sheree Leach, fishing on Dropped Call, a 61 Viking, was named the Top Lady Angler for releasing one verified blue marlin. Clay Horton, manning the rod on Trophy, a 50 Viking, earned Top Junior Angler honors after releasing a white marlin and sailfish.
A total of 71 boats competed in the 36th annual event, with $702,400 in prize money on the line. A total of 124 billfish were released during the three days of fishing, including 82 sailfish, 31 blue marlin and 11 white marlin. Twenty-eight game fish were brought to the scales.
“It’s been a fun week,” said Tournament Director Heather Maxwell. “Except for some rain, the seas cooperated and it was great to see that many blue ones caught. I’d like to thank all the teams for fishing with us again, my board of directors, all the wonderful sponsors and our hard-working staff and volunteers. I look forward to seeing everyone again next August here on the Outer Banks.”
The 37th Annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament is scheduled for August 10-14, 2020.