Winning the Carolina Billfish Classic: An Owner's Perspective
When the Blue Sky first appeared on the horizon a couple Saturdays ago, she was merely a glimpse of distant aluminum tower piercing the divide between sea and sky. As the sport fisher galloped across the heart of the harbor, the pearl white curve of the hull caught the rays of the sun, glints of light pinging off the tower. Suddenly, through a view of cascading wake and salt laden spray, a series of celebratory hands shot up from the bridge and the cockpit. There was certainly much to celebrate. With two blue marlin releases and three sailfish releases, the Blue Sky had just topped the 43-boat fleet fishing the Carolina Billfish Classic, earning them first place in the tournament and second place in the current standings for the 2019 Governor’s Cup Series.
To grasp that winning check, the folks aboard the Blue Sky worked as a team through some less than ideal conditions. The first day of the tournament was called off due to weather, and the second day was looking questionable at best. But, as the clock ticked on toward daybreak, the seas and winds improved enough to lift the small craft advisory. While some competitors decided to stay dockside, the majority of the fleet made its way offshore. When we asked about the weather that day, Greg Smith, the owner of the Blue Sky, said: “Huge swells, waves breaking over the covering boards. I actually went to bed Thursday night thinking there’s no way we are going to fish Friday. We were all holding on, that's for sure, but as the day went on it did get a great deal better. Glad it turned out the way it did.” Although they may have been beaten up a bit, the Blue Sky put themselves in good position to carry out the win, raising release flags for a blue marlin and two sailfish that day.
On the final day of fishing, the Blue Sky needed a few additional releases to capture the lead. Meanwhile, a number of other boats began calling in sailfish and blue marlin over the radio. It wasn’t until after noon when Captain Jay Weaver got his turn to announce a sailfish release for the Blue Sky. Then, with only about an hour and a half left of fishing in the Carolina Billfish Classic, the team encountered their ticket to victory.
“Jay saw the fish before it hit, thats the advantage of a captain with great eyesight coupled with an elevated position. He alerted Dan Webster who was holding the closest rod to the fish, it hit…” Greg recalled. “Dan went into free spool and the rest took only 3-4 minutes. The fish did cooperate by staying on top and jumping, which allowed us to back down on her quickly. It was a perfect fish. We got a quick release and then the boat erupted for a second. We were asked to pipe down while Jay called it in, after that I think I had a beer.”
So far, fishing has been rather slow off the coast of South Carolina this year. Fortunately, during the Carolina Billfish Classic, the catch reports started to improve. A total of 11 blue marlin and 40 sailfish were released by 43 boats over the two days. When fishing is slow, it takes a good team to capitalize on the challenge. The Blue Sky is definitely one of those teams.
“We have a bunch of different careers going on - two attorneys, a boat salesman, an investment banker, an insurance broker, a retiree, and a car dealer,” explained Greg. “We all have a great love for the sport and we have kept the same group of anglers since we bought the Spencer three seasons ago, so I guess we all just get along pretty good.”
Greg also credits much of the Blue Sky’s success to the man at the helm, Captain Jay Weaver. “Jay is very good, very demanding,” he said. “He expects the best out of his mates and anglers. From the boat to the bait, Jay is continuously looking for improvement…He is a great coach. On a hook up, he uses direction during the fight as opposed to someone who does a bunch of yelling afterwards. As an owner, I could not be happier.”
Those of you who know the Blue Sky will also recognize that the team extends well beyond its captain and crew. The boat is typically bustling with activity while dockside. Whether hosting a crab crack on the transom or serving cocktails in the cockpit, the boat always welcomes friends and family for summer evenings at the marina. When asked about the Blue Sky’s merry crowd, Greg explained, “My wife Stacey and I see the boat as an outlet, a get away each time we are on her, and we like to share that as often as we can with everyone.”
It would seem that this outlet is proving a successful strategy for this award winning boat and her extended family of supporters!
Congratulations to Greg, Captain Jay, and the Blue Sky team! We hope to see y’all in Edisto, hot on the trail for the Series title!
The Teaser is a series dedicated to showcasing the stories of the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series and its lively community. The Gov Cup was created several decades ago to encourage the conservation of ocean resources through the tagging and release of billfish. Learn more here.