Country Girl wins 34th Annual Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament

Published 4:27 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

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By Capt. Dave Lear

The 163 teams of lady anglers fishing the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Billfish Tournament found smooth sailing on Sunday off North Carolina’s prolific Outer Banks. The fleet released 162 billfish, with 147 of that tally being Atlantic sailfish. Seven blue marlins and eight white marlins were also released by the competitors.

Country Girl, a 57’ Buddy Cannady run by Capt. Charles Foreman, took top honors with five sails based on time. The team also won the Billfish Jackpot of $46,750 for the effort. Tenacity (56’ Paul Mann) with Capt. Lucas Jolly at the helm, was the second place boat, also with five releases to its credit. Teaz’em (54’ Hudson/Capt. Mark Barton) was third with 450 points, followed by Fender Bender (55’ Jarret Bay/Capt. Colin Oxnard) with 400 points. Hog Wild, a 55’ Paul Mann with Capt. Jim Horning on the throttles, earned the fifth place trophy with 400 points as well.

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Morgan Gallop, fishing aboard Waverunner, a 63’ Custom with Capt. Brian White on the flying bridge, won the Dolphin Jackpot prize of $61,200 and the trophy with the top dolphin weighing 22.70 pounds. Temple Varno cranked in the top wahoo at 43.6 pounds, competing on Labrador, a 52’ Sunny Briggs with Capt. Wade Fickling. Capt. John Bayliss, running Tarheel, a 46’ Ricky Scarborough, guided Eden Saunders to the top tuna trophy at 14.6 pounds.

In the individual awards, Rachael Davanzo was named the recipient of the Paula Stansky Award for Angling Excellence after releasing a blue marlin on Short Rigger, with Capt. Steve Richardson running the 58’ Bobby Sullivan. Julia Spangler won the Lucy B. Gaddy Junior Angler Scholarship Award after releasing a sailfish on Teaz’em.

“Man, we had fun,” says Capt. Mark Barton, Teaz’em’s skipper. “We had good girls and good mates. We had a double of sails right away and one jumped on the short right plug. Our junior angler (14-year-old Julia Spangler) hooked and landed it herself. I had marked a blue marlin on the bottom machine right before lines in and after we released the sail, I went back up sea. That fish ran to the right teaser, then we hooked it on the right short. It was a 35 to 40 minute fight, but we got it. My wife released a sail later and for the day we went three for six on sails and one for one on marlin.

“It was beautiful out there, with 10 to 12 knot winds and three-foot waves every 10 seconds or so. Really gorgeous. I didn’t mark much bait, but we had fished earlier in the week a couple times and knew about where to look. It was a little scrappy, yet we still managed to be in the right spot at the right time.”

Donna Boyd and her seasoned team were competing on Tuna Fever with Capt. Billy Maxwell, an Oregon Inlet charter boat. This is the fifth year the group has fished together.

“It was a little bumpy going out, but it turned out to be a nice day today, a little hot,” Boyd explained. “We ended up with a dolphin, wahoo and yellowfin tuna. This tournament gives us girls time to be together for a good cause with a lot of good people. We like to help raise funds for breast cancer and it’s always a good time.”

“The support of our teams never ceases to amaze me,” says Alice Kelly Memorial Tournament director Heather Maxwell. “We raised a lot of money to support a great cause, the ladies had a fun time and by the way, these women know how to fish, too. It was another memorable year.”

Named in honor of a well-known angler and community volunteer, the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament is a major fundraiser for the Interfaith Community Outreach, a non-profit Outer Banks organization that supports individuals and their families coping with cancer. The outreach funds help the afflicted and their families with rent, mortgage, electric, auto repair, home rehabilitation, insurance, water, prescriptions, medical mileage for cancer treatments, lodging for treatment, counseling and funeral expenses. The ICO serves the Outer Banks area and works closely with other charities and churches to help those in need.

The 35th Annual Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament is scheduled for August 10-11, 2024 at Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo.