On Monday, John Potter of Oak Bluffs and his sons Max and Zak picked up their entry pins for the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. On Tuesday night, Zak, age 7, started prepping his gear: two rods, several tackle boxes, and, of course, his blue derby baseball hat.

Zak earned first place last year in the junior division for a striped bass and third place for a bluefish. Fishing the derby had been a full commitment. Once, after a busy night fishing at Gay Head, the Potters came home at 11:30 p.m. We need to talk about a fishing schedule, Zak’s mother Susan said.

“[Zak] looked up at my wife and said, ‘But Mom, they were there,’” Mr. Potter remembered.

Fun for all ages; derby fever casts a wide net. — Ivy Ashe

Derby fever, which can strike just about anyone during the five weeks of fishing that kick off this Sunday, is infectious. Across the Island, kids younger than Zak and adults decades older are sorting through their lures and dusting off waders. Tackle shops, already busy with registration, have a backlog of rods and reels that need to be fixed up before the weekend.

The 69th annual derby begins at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning and the first weigh-in bell rings at 8 a.m., when the doors of the small headquarters shack in Edgartown open for business. The tournament runs through Oct. 18.

“I’ve got all my gear ready to go, and kind of a plan in place for at least the first night,” said Ron Domurat, who has fished the derby for 32 years. “There’s four or five places for stripers that I fish on a regular basis . . . then I go out and look for bluefish during the day, and false albacore during the day.”

But newcomers to the derby shouldn’t stress if they don’t have a set plan. The important thing, derby vice chairman Tom Smith said, is to just get out with your gear. “You can’t catch anything if you don’t have a lure in the water,” he said.

Gear checked and rechecked, Zak Potter (7) is ready for action. — Courtesy John Potter

“I used to say that my way to prepare for the derby was to just plan on not sleeping for the month,” chairman John Custer said. “It’s a busy, busy time of year, but I love it.” And though the entire event is a special time, he particularly looks forward to his Sunday morning weighmaster shift at headquarters. Mr. Custer is joined by Mike Cassidy, Joe El-Deiry, and master of weighmasters Roy Langley, who is now in his 18th year at the post.

“It’s such an important position — the weighmasters are ambassadors; they’re the first people people see,” Mr. Custer said. “We’ve been so lucky over the years . . . we’re kind of spoiled with having those guys.”

The same was true, he said, of the entire derby committee and the many other volunteers who help coordinate the event. This is Mr. Custer’s eighth year as chairman.

“It’s really just organization and counting on some really amazing, dedicated folks who do just that,” he said. “It’s not that it sort of ‘happens,’ but we’ve got a good routine down.”

The committee meets monthly during the year prior to the tournament, sorting out logistics, lining up sponsors, and preparing a calendar of special events. This year, as in the past, there are four Super Saturdays, when anglers can win $500 for bringing in the heaviest fish that day. The first Super Saturday is Sept. 20 and features bluefish. False albacore, striped bass and bonito follow on the Saturdays after.

A challenge for catching the largest fish of each species from a kayak takes place throughout the derby.

The awards ceremony, when the grand prize boat and truck are given away, is on Oct. 19 at Farm Neck Golf Club. Shore anglers compete for the chance to win a new Model 220 Sisu from Eastern Boats. Boat fishermen are vying for a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, donated by the Clay Family Dealerships.

New Oak Bluffs fishing pier is prime derby spot. — Ivy Ashe

The Kids’ Derby, for those age 14 and under, begins at 6 a.m. on Sept. 21. As in the past, it takes place at the Steamship Authority dock in Oak Bluffs. Although this is the first year the nearby Oak Bluffs town fishing pier is open, it is for public use and could not be closed off for the kids’ tournament.

Still, the pier provides new opportunities for fishermen. David Nash of Edgartown, who helped spearhead the building effort, said that it was already seeing a fair amount of traffic.

“This area could be a really hot spot for albies especially,” Mr. Nash said. “That little space between the pier and the Steamship, it’s deeper water, the fish just love to come in there and torment the baitfish.” People were also catching striped bass there, he said.

The health of the striped bass stocks hovers over this year’s derby. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is in the process of determining new regulations to protect the fishery. Mr. Custer said the derby would be putting out a survey this year to get feedback on what to do about bass.

“That’s certainly something we’re aware of, and we want to be careful and thoughtful,” he said, adding that catch and release is “becoming an important part of fishing for many folks.” Sponsor Costa Del Mar sunglasses is sponsoring eight prizes at the awards ceremony, specifically for catch and release fish.

Coop's Bait and Tackle is busy place these days. — Alison L. Mead

Last year, exactly 2,000 fish, weighing a total of 20,280 pounds, were brought into headquarters.

According to early reports, bass have started to show up in Vineyard waters, but are scarce. Bluefish are in town as well. There are few bonito, however, at least near the shore. Offshore fishermen have a better chance of landing one. False albacore began to arrive last week. The albies are here in good numbers, derby president Ed Jerome said. “So that’s excitement for a lot of people,” he said. For his part, Mr. Jerome said he was most excited about renewing his derby friendships.

Mr. Smith echoed the statement.

“It’s the same folks that fish year in and year out, and they’re not necessarily folks I keep in touch with,” he said. “I’m almost guaranteed to see them.”

As Mr. Custer, the derby chairman, put it: “It’s a fishing tournament, but it’s more than just catching fish.”