Desperado Beats the Fleet at Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament

The East Coast bite picks up

Team Desperado at Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament
Team DesperadoCourtesy Capt. Dave Lear/Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

As the tournament weekend kicked off, the ladies fishing the 30th annual Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament were met with beautiful weather and calm seas. A total of 106 teams participated in what is said to be one of the most popular all-ladies events on the East Coast.

This year, the tournament proceeds, entry fees and raffle money benefited the Interfaith Community Outreach Cancer Program to support area breast cancer patients and their families. “I’m just overwhelmed by the tremendous support of all our teams and wonderful sponsors,” said tournament director Heather Maxwell. “For 30 years now, this fun tournament has helped so many, and it really has a positive impact on the community,” she continued, “so I’m very grateful.”

Anglers Regan Boyd, Danielle Oliver and Samantha Polk each released one blue marlin aboard Bangarang with Capt. Paul Spencer for the first-place position and 450 points. Capt. Mike Merritt's Sandra D team tallied a total of 350 points for second place on time, and Capt. Todd Smith's Viking 60 team, Triple S, finished in third, also with 350 points.

Jesus Freak angler Caroline Walker was named top angler by successfully hooking, fighting and releasing her white marlin under IGFA rules.

After a brief break, the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament was soon underway with 71 teams competing for more than $700,000 in prize money.

The tournament committee was met with almost the entire fleet laying on Day Two, resulting in that day's daily jackpot being divided by the three remaining first-place daily winners, Desperado, Skirt Chaser and Uno Mas, and ­three ­second-place daily winners, Fender Bender, Goombay and Pelican.

The 56-foot Taylor Harrison Desperado was the top boat of the tournament, amassing 1,000 points overall for releasing five sailfish and two blue marlin over three days. "This is the most memorable win for me, since the Pirate's Cove is our local tournament," said Desperado's Capt. Rob Barker. "It really means a lot." He credited his entire team for a job well done, saying he has been fishing with some of the same team members since he was a mate himself.

Capt. Wade Fickling's The General, a 55-foot Buddy Cannady based out of Morehead City, North Carolina, placed second after a last-day rally netted the team a video-verified blue marlin and two sails. The team released six billfish for a total of 900 points. And Oregon Inlet Fishing Center's Skirt Chaser, another one of the four Buddy Cannady boats fishing the tournament this year, finished third with 700 points for releasing two blues and two sails.

Fin Planner emerged with the most blue marlin points, winning the team $83,300, and Sandra D, Skirt Chaser and Bi-Op-Sea padded their pockets for releasing the first billfish each day.

The Top Angler award went to Dan Stephano, who was fishing on Capt. Bull Tolson's Sea Toy; Dropped Call's Sheree Leach took Top Lady Angler, and Clay Horton was named Top Junior Angler for his efforts aboard Trophy.

A total of 124 billfish were released—31 blue marlin, 11 white marlin and 82 sailfish—in the 36th annual event. The tournament raised $97,000 for charity.

“I’d like to thank all the teams for fishing with us again,” Maxwell said. “I look forward to seeing everyone next August here on the Outer Banks.”