Pink was the theme of the night, highlighted by colorful costumes, balloons and hundreds of smiling faces. It is the 32nd edition of the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament and a record field of 145 teams will head to the Gulf Stream Sunday for a day of offshore fun—and a cause.
Named after a passionate local angler and victim of breast cancer, proceeds of this memorial event go to the Interfaith Community Outreach—Cancer Program to help support Outer Banks women afflicted with the disease. Fishing begins at 8:30 and ends at 3 pm, with the awards banquet Sunday night. Team costumes and decorated boats set the tone throughout the Pirate’s Cove Marina Saturday.
The Alice Kelly is a release-only format for billfish. Blue marlin score 150 points, while white marlin, sailfish, spearfish and swordfish score 100 points apiece. Jackpot entries for the most billfish release points and heaviest dolphin (winner take all) will earn cash payouts. Trophies will also be awarded to the top teams. Ashlee Sawyer of Surf City, North Carolina, is a member of the Mamo Grammies team consisting of good friends competing aboard First Look from Atlantic Beach.
“I fish this tournament because I grew up on the Outer Banks and I’m supportive of breast cancer prevention,” she said. “Plus my mom is a mammogram technician, so it really hits home.” The team members were in “granny” attire and each wore a name badge of their respective grandmothers in tribute.
“We won the boat decorating contest last year. But our boat just got in from Maryland this afternoon, so we didn’t get a chance to defend our title this time,” she added. Sawyer says the team members rotate turns on the rod, with preference given to newcomers or those who have never caught a fish.
Capt. Jack Graham runs the Afishionado as he hosts Team She Nanigans in 2021. This marks his 10th time fishing the Alice Kelly Memorial.
“I don’t have a game plan yet, I’m waiting on some reports,” the veteran skipper said early Saturday evening. “We’re going to go out there and go marlin fishing after looking at the weather and wind direction. There is a big push of nice water moving down from Ocean City, so hopefully it’ll hold some fish.
“It’s great having a team of all lady anglers,” he added. “They are excited and fired up. But a lot of them haven’t fished much and they think the ‘riggers should be ripped off regularly, but it’s not like that marlin fishing, normally. But I hope it is tomorrow.”
This marks the second year of competition for Kaley Sharpe of Nashville, North Carolina and the first for her pal, Logan Smith of Wilmington. The two will be fishing aboard Fistful.
“I love to fish and I grew up on the beach, so I always wanted to fish this tournament,” Smith explained. “I’m excited to be here and fishing with my friends.”
Friends, families, cause. All in various shades of pink for a tribute lasting more than three decades. Alice is smiling down from above.