Fishing is fun. It’s a combination of skills and a shared outdoor pursuit in a unique, mesmerizing environment. It’s the electric jolt that comes with every hook-up and the satisfaction of conquering a worthy adversary after a spirited battle. It is a universal sport that knows no age limitations or gender bias.
And yet it can be even more. Fishing can unite communities in a common cause, one that impacts lives while honoring a cherished friend. It can grow every year and raise more money in donations. Do that for nearly three decades with flair, in every shade of pink imaginable, and you’ll have the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament.
Celebrating its 29 season in honor of a passionate local angler who lost her battle with cancer, this year’s edition will send a record 108 boats through Oregon Inlet Sunday morning in search of marlin, tuna, wahoo and one very lucrative dolphin. All billfish must be released, but one team is going to pocket $29,325 in jackpot money for the largest dolphin weighed in. For most, this an annual excuse to have a good time while raising money to help support others battling an often deadly disease.
“We created the Alice Kelly tournament and have fished it every year since,” says Carole Sykes of Nags Head, one of the team members competing aboard Sniper. “Alice was a great friend of ours. She loved to fish and was very competitive herself. This started out small, but as Pirate’s Cove and the Outer Banks sport-fishing community has grown, so has this tournament. Women come from all over to fish this one now. This really is a big week for Dare County.
“We have fun and it’s a great tribute to Alice. But our team is very competitive. We love to win. When that line pops, we get in the chair and get it done.”
Team Big Al’s Gals is composed of six anglers from Wilmington. They have been fishing the tournament for five years aboard Country Girl.
“Our goal is to catch a big ass fish,” says Holley Snider. “This is a great party and a great cause.”
“This tournament lets us inspire and empower each other,” added team mate Meg Mathews.
Tournament Director Heather Maxwell echoed those sentiments as she went over the rules during the captains’ meeting.
“The forecast is getting a little tougher. But we’ve got Carolina boats, Carolina girls and we’re going to catch some Carolina fish. So good luck out there and I look forward to handing out trophies and checks Saturday night.”
Lines go in the water at 8:30 am Sunday and come out at 3 pm. A live radio feed of the hook-ups will be broadcast here on the tournament web site.