Clayton anglers Jackie Miller and Kim Annis each caught and released a blue marlin Saturday to help the Ashley Lauren top a record field of 125 boats and win the 19th annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler (KWLA) Blue Marlin Tournament.
Miller reeled in and released her blue marlin at 11:24 a.m. and Annis tallied a blue marlin release 95 minutes later to give the Ashley Lauren the lead for good. The Honey Hush, winner of two previous KWLA events, held an early lead with a blue marlin released at 12:01 p.m. but the Ashley Lauren came from behind to get the win.
The Ashley Lauren team will receive a first-place prize of $13,281 share of the $82,556 purse. Last year, Ashley Lauren anglers had to settle for second place. This year, everything fell into place.
The record field competed in near-perfect offshore conditions. Inspiration angler Jeannie Fischler, Morehead City, won the “Winner Take All” dolphin category to help her team win $49,725 with a 31.2-pound catch. The Inspiration will also receive $4,427 for winning dolphin gamefish category.
Snowkidz angler Kristie Newell of Washington, N.C., landed a 30.5-pound wahoo to win $4,427 in that gamefish division. No tuna were brought to the scales so that division's prize of $10,695 will roll forward to the 20th annual KWLA.
Proceeds from the one-day billfish event will be donated to KWLA charities. Since 1998, the KWLA has raised $251,065 for charity, including $228,166 to support the Carteret General Hospital Cancer Center.
The tournament standings will become official after KWLA officials verify all results. The 19th KWLA serves as a kickoff event for the 58th Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament set to start Monday. So far, 158 boats have signed up for this year’s Big Rock, which has raised almost $4 million for charity since 1988.