The possibility of rough conditions failed to deter the lady anglers aboard Fight-N-Lady as the team scored an early blue marlin release and held on to win the billfish division of the 16th annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler (KWLA) tournament.
Jessica Proctor and Fight-N-Lady captain Pete Zook, Morehead City, teamed to catch and release a blue marlin after an 11-minute fight. Procter’s catch proved to be worth $5,100 in the billfish division of the event.
The KWLA—which was expanded to Sunday in response to Tropical Storm Andrea – offered $5,100 cash prizes in both the billfish and gamefish divisions. It also featured a three-year roll over bonus in the tuna category.
When no teams elected to fish Saturday, the competition became a one day shootout. Competitors from 48 teams were eligible to fish Sunday and the teams that went offshore combined to record 16 releases, including five blue marlin, eight white marlin and three sailfish.
The ladies fishing aboard Blue Eyes recorded the first release of the tournament, hooking and releasing a white marlin worth 125 points. The lady anglers aboard Fight-N-Lady then hooked and released their blue marlin at 8:51 a.m. and released the fish at 9:09 a.m. to tally 400 points.
They held the lead the rest of the way.
Galot III finished second in the billfish division with a blue marlin release at 9:09 a.m. by lady angler Amy Mullins. Bill Collector lady angler Linda G. Matthews came in third with a blue marlin that was caught and released at 9:31 a.m. Matthews fought her catch for more than an hour.
Marci Godwin, Morehead City, who fished aboard the Safari, captured the dolphin division with a 42.2 pound catch. Godwin’s catch proved to be worth $17,000 as it captured the “winner Take All” dolphin category and the $1,700 category prize.
Safari, captained by Kevin Gaylord, also captured the wahoo category with a 47.3-pounder reeled in by Michell Litchfield of Greenville. Litchfield’s catch was worth $1,700.
Jana Fogleman, Wilmington, captured the tuna division with a 47.6-pounder. Fogleman, who fished aboard the Bootlegger, captained by Jimmy Canoy, helped her team win $9,279 because of a $7,579 rollover from the previous three KWLA tournaments.
In addition to prize money, the KWLA raises a significant amout of money for charity. Last year, $19,975 was raised to help support the Raab Cancer Center in Morehead City. The KWLA has donated more than $162,313 to support the Raab Center and $201,670 to support all charitable organizations since its inception in 1988.
The 16th KWLA helps kick off the 55th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, a six-day competition that begins Monday. Boats fish 4-of-6 days and cannot put lines in the water until 9 a.m. Fishing stops at 3 p.m. each day – unless someone is hooked up.
Big Rock officials reviewed tournament rules Saturday night at the Crystal Coast Civic Center before the start of the Captain’s Party. Anglers and Captains, if not offshore competing in the KWLA, spent the day making final preparations for the start of fishing Monday morning.
Good KWLA fishing conditions often bodes well for the Big Rock that follows. In 2001, the Lady Angler tourney drew a record number of entries because of good fishing conditions. Four days later, Adrian Holler of Newport captained the Sea Striker to victory with a blue marlin that turned out to be worth a record first-place prize of $942,100.
Big Rock tournament officials and volunteers have been reeling in the final registrants for the six-day competition. Registration numbers reached 98 boats as of 5 p.m. Sunday. That means the Big Rock purse will top $1 million for a 16th straight year.