MOREHEAD CITY — Competitors on 66 boats headed offshore early Saturday to compete in the 14th annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler (KWLA) tournament, a one-day billfish event that donates all of its proceeds to the Raab Cancer Center at Carteret General Hospital.
Lady anglers on the Fin Hunter recorded the first release of the day after 61 minutes of early fishing. The competition includes six additional non-competing teams who paid the $500 entry fee to support the KWLA and its charity.
The KWLA – pronounced “koala” – was named after a long-time competitor who lost her battle with cancer in 2008. Wagner, who fished and helped organize in the inaugural lady angler event, would have been proud of what the competition has become. The once quiet event that drew just a handful of boats in 1998 has morphed into a top-drawer competition. Each year, lady anglers throughout the region gear up to take part in the fishing, fun and festivities. The pre-competition party has turned into a “don’t miss” affair.
“The cause is close to everyone’s heart,” said KWLA tournament director Kyra Moore. “I don’t know many people who haven’t been touched by someone with cancer. If this tournament can offer a little bit of help to the patients and their families a the Raab Center, I think that’s what everyone wants. The sponsors are supportive … the competitors. Everyone understands what this tournament is trying to do.”
Last year, a record field of 77 boats headed offshore. This year, $18,000 was raised to support the Raab Cancer Center, pushing the total since 2005 over $127,000.
Last year, Figment captured the 13th annual KWLA by releasing two blue marlins in the first 44 minutes of fishing. Figment captain Glynn Loftin of Swansboro, who finished second in the 2010 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, managed to continue his luck on the eve of the 52nd Big Rock.
The KWLA serves as a kickoff event for the six-day Big Rock competition that is now in its 53rd year. So far, 72 boats have signed up for the 53rd Big Rock, which has raised $2,413,000 for tournament charities since 1988.