Delta Dawn angler Connie Thompson released a blue marlin and a white marlin Saturday to help her team defeat a record field of 144 boats and capture the 20th annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler (KWLA) tournament.
While Thompson’s two catches were key, an 8.9-pound dolphin landed by Delta Dawn angler Nina Foust proved to be the difference. Foust’s catch broke a tie with the lady anglers aboard Full Pull who released a blue marlin and a sailfish but did not weigh in a gamefish. That gave Delta Dawn the first place prize of $15,300.
The win also gave Delta Dawn captain Pete Manuel, his second KWLA victory. In 2000, Manuel guided the Delta Dawn to a KWLA victory with two blue marlin releases and reported seeing a “huge blue marlin” that his lady anglers did not hook. A few days later, the Summertime Blues caught an 831-pound blue marlin to win the 42nd Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. That catch is still a Big Rock record.
It proved to be an almost perfect day offshore. Lady anglers caught and released 13 blue marlin, 15 white marlin and 10 sailfish as the competition went right down to the wire.
Lady anglers on the Sensation have the most to celebrate as team member Michelle Gregory reeled in a 54.2-pound dolphin to capture the “Winner Take All” dolphin division. Gregory, who won once before as a member of the Honey Hush fishing team, helped her teammates win a $58,225 prize.
A two-year rollover of tuna division money created a windfall profit for the lady anglers aboard Release. The Release team is set to receive $15,795 at the awards ceremony, which includes the $10,695 rollover from the previous two years.
Snowkidz lady anglers won the wahoo division for the second straight year, this time with an 18.9-pound catch. The Snowkidz lady anglers won $4,427 in 2016 and added another $5,100 this year.
Proceeds from the one-day billfish event will be donated to KWLA charities. Since 1998, the KWLA has raised $299,065 for charity, including $253,916 to support the Raab Cancer Center at Carteret General Hospital.
Official results will be final after 10 p.m. Saturday – the deadline for all release forms to be turned in to KWLA officials.
The 20th KWLA serves as a kickoff event for the 59th Big Rock, set to start Monday. So far, 144 boats have signed up for this year’s Big Rock, which has raised $4,084,896 for charity since 1988.