A Last-Minute Sailfish Wins the Tournament

A big payday for the Country Girls.

Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament winners
The winning team. Courtesy Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

A sailfish caught in the last five minutes before the 3 p.m. “lines out” deadline on the final day of the 2022 Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament in North Carolina gave Capt. Charles Foreman and Country Girl enough points to take top honors and collect a purse totaling $370,438.

In an exciting tournament with daily changes to the leaderboard, Country Girl’s final day surge saw the crew score three fish to finish with 800 points.

The last-minute sailfish was spotted by angler Larry Holland.

“We were about ready to quit, but I was still looking outside the boat and saw a fin swim by,” says Holland. “I hollered at Meredith (Foreman’s wife) that I wasn’t sure if it was a white (marlin) or a shark. I told Lee (first mate Collins) and as soon as he saw it, he dropped back a ballyhoo and caught the fish.”

Collins explained he was “prospecting off the dredge” when the fish was spotted.

“Every time I started cranking the bait up, he showed behind it and chased it back to the boat,” says Collins. “It went into a flatline position and I just let him eat.”

Angler Jeff Campbell cranked in the fish in short order. The sailfish was released after Collins grabbed the leader. The boat erupted.

“It was unbelievable, everybody was jumping and cheering,” says Meredith Foreman. “Jeff stayed calm the whole time bringing in that fish. Once we had it, everyone was crying. It was very emotional.”

Collins said the whole day was an “emotional rollercoaster,” one doubly meaningful to him because his 14-year-old daughter Taylor was aboard to be part of the excitement.

“We raised a treble of blues (marlin) this morning and only one really ate,” he told Salt Water Sportsman at the dock. “We pulled in one out of a pair of sails and that put us in first, then we got bumped down to second. After that we went nearly four hours without a bite. With five minutes left, we found him (the sailfish).”

Amping up the emotion was the fact that Country Girl, a 1990 57-foot Buddy Cannady boat, was built by Foreman’s grandfather and originally operated by his father, Allan “Big Al” Foreman, who died in 2017. Allan Foreman founded Pirate’s Cove Marina in the late 1970s, personally driving the pilings that became the early marina

Charles Foreman said he believed his father was looking down on them during the Aug. 16-19 tournament.

“My wife told a member of our group, ‘Big Al likes to make us wait until the last minute; he’s not going to let us have it any earlier.’ And, sure enough, at the very last minute, my father looked down and provided us that one last fish we needed for the points. It’s crazy how that worked out.”

Bill Collector, a 52-foot Jarrett Bay boat captained by Stephen Draughon, took home $118,312 for its overall second-place finish and daily awards for days 1 and 4. Blue Sky, a 60-foot Spencer captained by Jay Weaver, placed third, pocketing $73,583.

Trophy Hunter, a 55-foot Buddy Cannady captained by Kenneth Brown and his son Will, opened the tournament hot, releasing two blue marlin on the first day to earn 500 points. Things rapidly cooled from there. Still, the team netted $177,373.75 between the day 1 billfish daily jackpot and a release points award.

Eighty-six boats entered this year. Overall, 112 billfish were caught, including 30 blue marlin, 53 sailfish and 29 white marlin. All billfish were released.

Tournament Director Heather Maxell said the small number of white marlin was a bit surprising.

“Not catching any white marlin on day one was a first,” Maxwell said. “I think we caught more fish on the last day than we did during the whole tournament, but the class of fishermen here is not to be touched.”

Prizes were also awarded for the biggest dolphin, wahoo and tuna. Forty-three fish total were weighed. The top fish in each category paid $23,800.

Capt. Joe Woodington, aboard Desperado, had the heaviest tuna – 75.50 pounds. Capt. Brandt McGillewie with Chas’n Tails had the top wahoo at 69.60 pounds. Top dolphin honors went to Keelan Jones aboard Due South with a 26.1-pound fish.

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