Jones Family Bags The Big One After 12+ Years Of Tournament Fishing

Aug 3, 2023 | Magazine, News, Viking Yachts | 0 comments

Offshore fishing in the 1970s and 80s was how Steve Jones enjoyed spending his free time. He would join friends on their 30-footers and head out into the Atlantic in search of a good bite and great memories. Their travels to and from the open waters along the Outer Banks would take them past Wanchese and the bustling commercial and charter fishing fleets. “We’d go to Wanchese and watch the Buddy Davis boats being built and I said, ‘I will have a sportfish like that one day’”, Jones recalls. Fast forward a few decades, family, career, children and more, and Jones’ made good on that dream.
An offshore trip in 2009 aboard a friend’s Viking sportfishing convertible left Jones chomping at the bit, and the next year he sealed the deal by purchasing a Viking 52 Convertible. The boat then underwent extensive modifications at Bluewater’s Hampton Yacht Yard (now Safe Harbor Bluewater).
Jones has a form of muscular dystrophy that primarily affects his legs. He uses a motorized chair to get around and his 52’ Viking was adapted to serve his fishing style and needs while accommodating his chair. All modifications were completed in time for Jones and his crew to fish the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament (VBBT) in August of that year. “We have fished the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament every single year since 2010—besides 2020 when there was no tournament,” Jones says.

Meet the Crew

Cuttin’ Up is run by Jones’ middle son Nicholas, while his oldest son Travis works the cockpit setting dredges and angling. “One of my sons is up, the other one is down,” Jones explains. “This way they do not compete or rival.” The youngest of his three boys loved fishing as well but unfortunately passed away in a scuba diving accident back in 2015. Jones also has a daughter, Faith Victoria, who loves fishing, and his wife Debbie enjoys tagging along, but prefers a more relaxing cruise or staying home with the grandchildren.

The Jones children are joined by a tight group of friends they grew up with. “I am so proud of my boys and the guys fishing with us.” Jones continues, “The core of that group has been with us at every tournament—virtually everybody on that boat is like family to us, all around.”

Jones is very much a family man, and the boat is a tool to get them together as much as their busy schedules will allow. “If my children were not involved, I would not have the boat.” Jones explains further, “I still deer hunt with my boys too. We’ve modified a 4-wheeler and they help me hunt.” Jones feels very fortunate knowing that most men do not have the opportunity to spend so many hours enjoying the company of their grown children.

What Friends Are For

Another friend and customer of Bluewater Yacht Sales, Perry Nichols, purchased a 64-foot Viking at the 2018 Miami Yacht Show. Nichols also copes with muscular dystrophy and, like Jones, he immediately turned his boat over to the experienced team at Bluewater’s Hampton Yacht Yard for extensive modifications. As with the original Cuttin’ Up, Bluewater’s Brian Motter was instrumental in designing and implementing all of the adaptations for Nichols’ boat.

Nichols and his crew fished his 64C, Knot Done Yet and enjoyed success on the tournament trails in 2018 and 2019, which then led to the purchase of a new 72-foot Viking. With delivery of his modified 72C on the horizon, Nichols was prepared to sell his heavily customized 64, and Bluewater was poised to play matchmaker.

“Bluewater’s Scott James has been instrumental in everything, including the transaction on the 52’ Viking and then the 64’ Viking.” Jones continues, “Perry [Nichols] did me right on the deal and I am grateful he afforded me the opportunity to buy his boat.” Bluewater Yacht Sales was also ready to make a deal to ensure this exchange happened for these two amazing friends. “Bluewater bent over backwards to make the transaction happen to show respect to myself and Perry,” Jones says. “They wanted me in this boat!”


Once in a Lifetime

Although the 64’ Viking was already adapted for Nichols, Jones still needed to make some modifications to suit their different styles. Nichols spends a lot of time in the cockpit, while Jones prefers to be on the bridge with Capt. Nick. Once again, Motter stepped in to problem-solve, mounting an electric reel on a gimbal from the aft rocket launcher allowing Jones to fish from the bridge.

Another required customization was to change the tuna tower to allow for passage under the Rudee Inlet bridge. “The tower ended up being chopped off and then hinged in the back with locking anchors in the front so that it flips backwards,” Jones says. “A storm tide may make it tight getting under the bridge, but the boat passes fine at low and high tide now.”

In 2022, Jones and the crew entered his new and improved Cuttin’ Up in the VBBT as they had done for over a decade. Little did they know this year would be oh so different. On the first day of the three-day tournament, Captain Nick Jones was on the tower of the 64 Viking when he called out the bite of a big fish. “We weren’t certain what we had for the first hour of the fight,” Jones recalls. “The first time the fish jumped, we were shocked. Then it turned and darted from us, pulling line fast.” This first glimpse raised the adrenaline for the whole crew as they confirmed it was a blue marlin, and a girthy one at that. “We knew it was a big one,” Jones recalls.

“Once we got it to the boat and gaffed it aboard, there was a lot of hooting and hollering going on,” he says. The whole fight lasted roughly 105 minutes. Being mostly a release tournament with a minimum take weight of 600 pounds, the team had to be confident in the marlin’s size. “We’ve caught and released blue marlin over the years but had never boated one that big. I will call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience for myself, and everybody on the boat.” Jones explains, “It’s one thing to catch a fish, but another thing to catch it at the right time, at the right place and to be entered in a tournament.”
While this was the team’s biggest catch, they are not strangers to the winner’s circle. “We’ve done alright over the years,” Jones explains. “We’ve won the largest dolphin one year, the largest wahoo another year.” However, Jones is quick to remind us that what they do is all fun fishing. “We’re weekend warriors. We don’t fish professionally and we’re lucky to get 15 trips offshore a year between work schedules and family.” Jones laughs, “We’re a bunch of amateurs compared to many of the teams and charter operations that enter these tournaments.”

Even so, upon returning to the docks to have their big blue weighed, there was much excitement around the 64 Viking and her crew. “We received so many compliments and the professional fishermen were giving us a lot of accolades as well,” Jones says. The excitement around Jones, his sons and their close friends grew more intense as the tournament staff announced the weight: 612.5 pounds!

This blue marlin easily held the lead spot through the duration of the tournament, landing Cuttin’ Up in the top of several categories along with a generous tournament purse of $281,400. Captain Nick Jones along with mates Travis Jones and Skip Price were honored with the Top Crew Award and Cuttin’ Up also received the Wayne McLeskey Memorial Top Boat Award.

OB-Symbol Well Documented

Read more about the three Viking Yachts customized for Bluewater customers Perry Nichols and Steve Jones in our past issues.

Helping Hands (2021, pg. 6-9)

Fishing is No Handicap (2020, pg. 18-21)

Award Winning Service (2017, pg. 6-7)

Doing Hard Time (2014, pg. 24-25)

What’s Next

After such an incredible finish to the tournament season, Jones and his family and the usual crew continue their fun fishing—perhaps as practice for the next tournament season. The Cuttin’ Up crew has their eyes set on the next VBBT along with the White Marlin Open in Ocean City. “I have been blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity to do this with family and friends,” Jones says. “For the boys it has always been fun fishing—even in a tournament.”

Recent upgrades to the 64 Viking include electric reels and custom rods. Nick and Travis want to ensure their dad can continue doing what he loves and enjoying this memorable time together as a family.

“My boys told me from the first day I bought the boat that I would never have to clean it a single day of my life.“ Jones continues, “My boys take great care of our boats and they do not mind at all.” Jones concludes,

“I am gonna do this ‘til I can’t do it any longer!”

The Bluewater family is grateful to be by Jones’ side through all his adventures while helping to update and maintain his boats.