Whitecaps captured the 22nd Keli Wagner Lady Angler Blue Marlin Tournament Saturday, topping a record field of 167 boats with two blue marlin releases worth 800 points to win $81,525 at the one-day competition.
Whitecaps captain Scott Wiggins, LaGrange, put Collins White, Wilson, on a blue marlin at 11:47 and she scored a release worth 400 points after a 56-minute fight. Whitecaps angler Wortley Whitehead, Wilmington, was in the fighting chair 19 minutes before the end of fishing and scored a second blue marlin release in overtime to secure the overall victory for her team.
El Cazador, who scored the first blue marlin release of the day, ended up second with 407 points for one blue marlin release and a 7.4-pound dolphin. Benchmark ended up third with 400 points for one blue marlin release.
Jennifer Cameron, angler on the Floridian, reeled in a 36.6-pound dolphin to helped her team capture the dolphin division prizes. This year, the dolphin gamefish division prize and the Winner Take All (WTA) dolphin prize combined to total $67,150.
Ominous weather forecasts didn’t discourage a record number of teams from entering the KWLA. Seasoned competitors decided better-than-anticipated weather would actually make Saturday’s one-day competition special.
It made for a crazy late rush of registrations at tournament headquarters and later at the KWLA pre-tournament party.
“To be honest, the record total didn’t surprise me,” said KWLA director Madison Maxwell. “When reports from offshore boats indicated Friday (Gulf Stream fishing) was great, we had a surge in registrations. KWLA competitors look forward to this competition every year. They weren’t going to let a little bit of rain spoil the fun.”
The KWLA, which once struggled to reach double-digit registration totals, has now become the largest one-day billfish release tournament in the nation. This year, anglers battled for $177,925.
This year, winning teams had to provide indisputable video or photo evidence and file release paperwork to qualify for releases points and prizes. Proceeds from the one-day billfish event will be donated to KWLA charities. Since 1998, KWLA has raised $349,165 for charities, including $303,916 for Carteret Health Care’s Cancer Center.