There’s nothing unlucky about number 13 as far as the Figment fishing team is concerned.
Figment, captained by Glynn Loftin of Swansboro, topped a record field of 77 boats Saturday to win the 13th annual Keli Wagner Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament. Figment lady anglers caught and released a blue marlin just 44 minutes into the competition and held on to win in what turned out to be perfect fishing conditions.
The victory helped Figment continued its string of good luck in recent Big Rock competitions. Figment took the inaugural lead in last year’s 51st Big Rock and eventually won $318,380. Capturing the 13th Keli Wagner Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament added another $8,181 in winnings.
“I’m so excited I can hardly stand it,” said winning angler Katharine Hesmer of Wilmington. “I’ve never been deep sea fishing in my life but this was my chance to show my stuff. It was so much fun.”
Hesmer fought her blue marlin nearly 40 minutes and had a tough battle as the fish ran deep several times. Moments before the strike, Hesmer was receiving her initial instructions on how to sit in and use the fighting chair. Moments later, she was handed a rod with a fish running out line.
“I had the best coaches … they were super patient with me … it took me a couple time to understand what they were saying about my technique,” she said. “The fish fought hard and it fought the entire time. I didn’t expect it to be that difficult. It was a quite the workout.”
Click Through, a boat captained by Matt Mauldwin out of Gulf Breeze, FL, finished second with a blue marlin release at 11:12 a.m. Two other boats – Wet & Wild and Eye Catcher – recorded white marlin releases.
The boat with the biggest payday turned out to be Bankwalker, captained by Bryant Montague of Raleigh. Bankwalker lady angler Texanna Montague reeled in a 47.8-pound dolphin to win $28,652.05. This total includes $25,925 for winning the Winner-Take-All dolphin category and $2,727.05 for capturing the dolphin division. No teams arrived at the Big Rock scales with a tuna or a wahoo.
The Keli Wagner Big Rock lady Angler Tournament began in 1998 with just six boats and a brutal weather forecast. Bad weather continued to plague the event so it took a few years to catch on.
But the 13th Keli proved to be a knockout. In addition to 77 competing teams, 61 boats elected to enter Level II. That number (61) represents the sioze of the field last year.
Competitors and non-competing supporters of the event raised $21,615 for the Raab Oncology Clinic, where Keli Wagner received so much support before she lost her battle with cancer.
“All money raised from this event goes to the comfort of patients receiving treatment at Raab, ” Big Rock vice president Casey Wagner told the crowd Friday night on the eve of the competition. He later shook his head in amazement as scanned the gathering of competitors who packed Crystal Coast Civic Center. Nobody who was around for the inaugural Big Rock Lady Angler event would have visualized a night like this.
“It’s huge,” said Tommy Bennett, who served as Big Rock president the past two years. “There’s no limit to what this can become. The ladies have proved that.”