May 5, 2014


Ridge Anglers of Kitty Hawk take first place
in Ocracoke tournament…WITH SLIDE SHOW

By CONNIE LEINBACH

The Ridge Anglers of Kitty Hawk, first-place winners of the annual Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament last week, had a specific strategy for their top ranking.

“Fish hard,” said team captain Brandon Phillips.

Their total points of 77 with 23 fish caught bested the other 69 teams in the 31st year of this springtime event on the island. Fishing days were Thursday and Friday, May 1-2.

“He was the rookie,” said team member Bob Burgess, who took the honors for most fish caught by a male in an eight-way tie. “So we made him captain. He caught five fish which took us over the top.”

The Rising Tides of Nags Head took second-place honors with 74 points and 24 fish caught.  The Merchantville Surf Fishing Club of New Jersey took third place with 56 points and 24 fish caught.

“The teams caught quite a few puppy drum this year,” noted head judge and tournament co-chair Woody Billings as he drove along the water line checking in on the teams. “We’ve been catching drum off this beach all winter and the drum are still here.”

“We had one of our best winter fishing seasons ever,” added Trudy Austin, official tournament photographer, who rode with Billings all four sessions over two days to capture the angling action.

Sarah Fiore of Ocracoke caught the largest fish of the tournament—a 26-inch red drum -- as part of the Misfit Mermaids team. Her fish beat the largest caught by a man: a 26-inch red drum caught by Tom Burke of the Hotliners.

“Inches matter!” gushed Fiore on the beach Friday morning after her fish was released.  Indeed, the motto on the 14 pairs of judges’ T-shirts is “Size Matters.”

The tournament is a catch-and-release. No fish are kept, but points are awarded on fish that are 11 inches and longer and numbers of fish caught.

“That was thrilling,” noted Libbi Worthley of the Blue Beetles as she released a 25-inch drum. “I saw the tail shoot out of the water and that spot on the fish, and I went ballistic.”

After all the fishing is done the tournament celebrates with a pig pickin’ party at the Community Center, which is open to the community. The Carolina Boys have been supplying the tournament with barbeque pork and sausages since the event began, Billings said.
  
Team members mill around the front of the building studying the scoreboard.

“We don’t do well here in Ocracoke,” noted Brittany Coleborn of the NC Sea Hags as she and team member Shannon Graf looked at their total score of 7. Although not the worst (eight teams had zero), it was not their best. “We kill it at Nags Head,” Coleborn said of the October tournament up the beach.

Several islanders volunteer with tallying the scores.

“We get to rush around and get all these scores ready for the awards ceremony,” said chief scorer Dave Frum, in his ninth year on the job. He was assisted by Phyllis Wall, Martha McMillan and Philip Howard.

The Fish Lips, a colorful women’s team from Nags Head, orders all the merchandise and awards and decorates the Community Center.  They also dress in a theme every year.  This year, they arrived at the party attired in orange jumpsuits as “inmates” of Ocracoke—jesting about the presence of state police troopers on the island during last year’s tournament.

Alan Sutton of Tradewinds Tackle gathers all of the prizes—coolers and fishing tackle. Patty Plyler compiles the program and works the merchandise table.

“It’s for the community,” she said about the event which raises money for several island charities.  Last year the event divided $4,500 among Ocracoke Child Care, the fire department, Boy Scout Troop #290, Ocracoke Youth Center and the Ocracoke School Willis Scholarship.

Total fish caught over the two days were 399 for 1,394 points.

The top female teams were, first-place—Sam & Omie’s Different Drummers, nine fish, 36 points; the Misfit Mermaids, one fish, 28 points; the Queen Mackerals, seven fish, 25 points.

Vallie Blakely of the OBX-Rays had the most fish for the females with five fish.

Session winners were first—Rising Tides; second—Hotliners; third—Blue Beetles; fourth—F-Team.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW

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