Hit-N-Run wins 21st KWLA

Hit-N-Run captured the 21st annual Keli Wagner Lady Angler (KWLA) blue marlin tournament Saturday, topping a record 161 boats to win $66,406 in the one-day billfish release competition.

Hit-N-Run captain David Fields put Mindy Ballou Fitzpatrick on a blue marlin 80 minutes into the start of fishing and she tallied a release after a 77-minute fight. Hit-N-Run angler Laura Russell was in the fighting chair when white marlin was hooked at noon. Russell scored a release three minutes later to help Hit-N-Run finish with 525 points.

Lo Que Sea finished second with 500 points for one white marlin release and three sailfish releases. Four boats were tied at third place at 400 points until Bootlegger weighed a 4.0-pound dolphin to finish at 404 points. Bootlegger angler Annalee Austin reeled in a blue marlin after a 45-minute fight to put her team in position to break the tie.

Lauren Dudley, angler on the Enough, reeled in a 52.7-pound dolphin to helped her team capture dolphin division prizes totaling $71,571. Lauren’s husband, Stuart, captain of the Enough, knew his crew had hooked a potential winning fish when he first saw it jump. But he immediately concocted a fib to keep everybody “in a calm state of mind.”

“Lauren’s fished plenty,” Dudley said. “Down in Costa Rica … and all over. But I told everyone else that her fish wasn’t anything spectacular. I knew I was lying, but I was trying to keep it calm. In my experience, if everyone gets wound up … it doesn’t help.”

Dudley’s catch was all the more spectacular because it was hooked and landed on a 32-foot outboard, one of the smallest boats in the field.

KWLA officials confirmed a record purse was up for grabs as teams headed offshore. Despite a steady rain during the trip out, anglers found perfect fishing conditions in the Gulf Stream. The tournament was wide open to every team but Hit-N-Run held on for the win.

Proceeds from the one-day billfish event will be donated to KWLA charities. Since 1998, KWLA has raised $324,165 for charities, including $278,916 for Carteret Health Care’s Cancer Center.