By Capt. Dave Lear
August 12, 2017; Manteo, North Carolina:
Most big game tournaments would be absolutely thrilled to have nearly 100 boats competing in their event. So when 97 sign up to fish a one-day, ladies contest, it’s big news indeed. But the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament is not just any tournament. It’s to honor the late champion for Outer Banks women as well as to raise money for a very important cause—fighting cancer.
Nearly three decades in the making, the Alice Kelly has become a major event on the competitive East Coast sport-fishing circuit. In addition to raising funds to combat a debilitating disease, it’s also the opportunity for women to showcase their Gulf Stream talents while having a fun time amid a defiant splash of pink in the form of bows, ribbons, t-shirts and lures.
“We have a team of four anglers and we’re all co-workers,” says Susan Cox, a first-time Alice Kelly participant and a member of Team Classea. “We work for the doctor who owns the boat and we’ve been fishing the past two days doing prep and our homework. It’s been a little slow, so we’re going to come up with an official game plan tonight and go from there.” Capt. Mark Beamer of Wanchese is the skipper of the 34 Blackwell.
“We’re targeting billfish and dolphin, but we’ll take whatever we can get,” Cox adds.
Melanie Lee of Mann’s Harbor, is another first-timer who is joining a veteran AK crew aboard Top Hooker, a 61 Blackwell run by Capt. Will Atkinson.
“i like the competition and I like what this tournament is all about,” Lee says. “It’s going to be fun.”
“We’re expecting to catch all the fish and have a blast doing it,” adds team-mate Sarah Davis of Manteo. “We’ll put the lines out and see what bites.”
In keeping with its charitable intent, the base entry money of all 97 boats will be donated to non-profit organizations. The Outer Banks Cancer Support Group is the biggest benefactor. The top five teams will win trophies instead. Nearly half of the fleet entered the optional winner-take-all jackpot division, though. An unofficial $19,500 is at stake for the team bringing the largest dolphin to the scales at the Pirate’s Cove Marina.
Fishing begins at 8:30 Sunday morning and concludes at 3 p.m., with the scales open until 7. But even before a single bait ever goes into the water, this much is certain—there are already 97 winners and all will be having fun for a great cause.