THE WINNER

The crew and family of The General, including Capt. Wade Fickling (holding the first-place plaque), pose Saturday at the “Band the Billfish” awards ceremony. The Morehead City boat won the N.C. Ducks Unlimited Tournament for a second straight year with 1,550 release points. (Ted Lewis photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — For the second year in a row, The General has won the N.C. Ducks Unlimited “Band  the Billfish” Tournament.

The Morehead City-based boat, captained by Wade Fickling, captured the 31st annual competition with 1,550 release points. The General took home $15,725 of the tournament’s $81,700 purse with the win.

Fickling and his crew finished with 750 points last year to win a payout of $20,250 from the tournament’s $103,000 purse.

Anglers had the option of fishing two of three days, beginning Thursday. Only Pelagic of the field of 22 boats went offshore on day one. The General only had 300 points after its first day of fishing Friday before finding a stretch of favorable water Saturday.

The boat caught and released two blue marlin and three sailfish on day three of the competition to win by a staggering 950 points. One of the blue marlin and all four sailfish were reeled in by lady angler Landt Smith who easily captured her division with 1,000 points.

The final sailfish was reeled in by junior angler Warren Smith who won a tiebreaker with 41.9 pounds of additional sportfish he caught. Of that total figure, 29.3 pounds came from a wahoo that won its division for a payout of $2,475.

Second place in the release points divisions went to Carterican of Atlantic Beach for 600 points, plus 26.8 pounds of sportfish caught to break a tie with Piracy of Morehead City. Carterican, captained by Lee Smith, earned $7,950 in winnings, while Piracy, captained by Chris Russell, took home $5,300 in prizes.

The $9,075 prize for largest dolphin, split among multiple sportfish categories, went to Sashimi for a 58.1-pounder reeled in by Jeremy Rogers and Capt. Dallas Austin.

There were no tuna caught in this year’s competition.

The $1,000 prize for the outboard division went to EZ Boy with 150 points.

In total, there were 35 billfish caught and released, including four blue marlin, three white marlin and 28 sailfish.

“Even though we did not have a good forecast or actual conditions, we still consider the tournament a success,” tournament co-director Mark Shouse said. “The fishing was good with 35 billfish released, and the attendance at the awards banquet was good. Ducks Unlimited will benefit from the proceeds, and we look forward to next year.”

On Saturday, captains, anglers and their families gathered at the Crystal Coast Civic Center for the awards ceremony and a live auction to raise additional funds for Ducks Unlimited’s duck habitation projects.

The N.C. Ducks Unlimited Billfish Tournament has been in effect since 1989 while releasing 1,113 billfish in the process. The name “Band the Billfish” speaks to the organization’s conservation efforts, and the release numbers back up that sentiment.

The tournament has a release rate that exceeds 99 percent for all years of the tournament and is 100 percent for the last 13 years and 22 of the last 28 years.

For more information on the tournament, visit ncdubillfish.com.

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