August 25, 2019; Virginia Beach, Virginia:
It was an improbable outcome for the week. Evelyn Kennedy, one of the smaller boats competing in the 16th Annual Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament, released three more fish on Saturday to claim the top overall prizes and the lion’s share of the $612,250 overall purse. The 48-foot Ricky Scarborough, based locally, is owned by Rick Robins and run by Capt. Kevin Pankoke. Fisher Dedmond caught one blue marlin, three whites and one spearfish over two days and was named the Top Angler for 2019.
The team won $254,775 for its efforts, including Wayne McLeskey Memorial Top Boat award, jackpots and second-place in the Day 3 daily. Bryan Dalheim is the mate and the other anglers included York Fee, Paul Michael, Blake Michael, Dick Robins and Tripp Robins. Dedmond was awarded a trophy for his accomplishments.
“Fishing was a challenge this week, a real grind,” Rick Robins said Saturday evening as he was cleaning dolphin and tuna. “You had to look hard to find bites and then take advantage of them. The guys I fish with are fantastic, though. They all pitched in and did the hard work.”
Waste Knot, a 56 Sunny Briggs owned by Thomas Groce and run by Capt. Barry Sawyer, won second-place boat honors and jackpots, earning $94,800 after releasing four whites and a blue based on time. Waste Knot was the top boat last year. All billfish releases score 70 points each.
Nick Gowitzka and Will Ross are the Waste Knot’s mates. The angling crew included Tom Groce, Ed Groce, Geoff Scheppers, Greg Alvis and Mark Carr.
Another local boat, Katherine Anne (63 Spencer), was named third-place boat, also with five billfish based on time. Katherine Anne, owned by Brad Wachowiak and skippered by Daniel Davis, won $82,950 in prize money. Hunter Winchester wound in the winning dolphin at 41.4 pounds to add to the earnings. In addition to Wachowiak and Winchester, the anglers included Curtis Colgate, Jorge Rivera, Justin Wilson and Gerald Foley, with John Bunn and Mike Fulgham manning the teak cockpit.
Full Pull, a 57 Croswait Brothers run by Ryan Riggs, scored the fourth-place trophy with four billfish releases. Electric Bill, a 60 Spencer, was fifth overall, with four releases based on time.
The VBBT pays out several jackpot categories based on overall points and daily standings. Top Hooker earned a top daily payout of $41,475 for the second day of fishing, along with Fender Bender with the same amount for Saturday. Only one boat fished the first day, so the daily money was re-distributed.
No billfish were caught on Thursday, which also rolled the Charity Mystery Fish jackpots over to the last two days. Desperado NC was the winner Friday, followed by Bench Mark on Saturday. Both teams won $29,625. Sea Trader won second-place daily money for Friday ($17,775), while Evelyn Kennedy took Saturday’s. Wendy Brockenbrough was named the Top Lady Angler competing on Sea Trader.
Della Ann, a 61 Spencer, boated the heaviest tuna for the week, a 52.6-pound yellowfin. That tuna was worth $19,750. River Simmons, fishing aboard Rare Breed, is taking home a trophy as the Top Junior Angler for releasing a white marlin. Chris Stine (Bi-Op-Sea) was awarded the Joel Webb Memorial Trophy as the Top Mate.
The 79 teams competing last week released a total of 116 billfish. The breakdown was 97 white marlin, 16 blues, two spearfish and one sailfish, all released. Game fish totals included seven yellowfin tuna and one dolphin.
“Fishing was slower than usual by our standards,” said VBBT Tournament Director Paula Owen. “We also had to contend with some rain and wind, but everyone had a good time and we raised a lot of money for very worthwhile local charities. I’d like to thank everyone—the teams, sponsors and volunteers—for joining us to help celebrate 16 years of Virginia Beach billfishing.”
The 17th Annual VBBT is scheduled for August 19-22, 2020.