Catch These Local Fishing Tournaments

Tight Lines in the Summertime: From the Monarch Cobia Classic to the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Billfish Tournament, Coastal Angling Competitions Heat Up 

By Beth Hester

Screaming reels, saltwater spray and tales about the one that got away. As summer rolls in, seasoned anglers and adventurous amateurs are gearing up for another season of competitive fishing along our region’s coastlines. Among the standout events: the ODU Alumni Association’s Cobia Classic, which is back for 2024, and the ever-popular Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament, which has been a beloved event for more than 30 years. But this summer isn’t just about one or two venerable tournaments—it’s a months-long season of opportunities for anglers to wet their lines, support worthy causes and create memorable moments on the water. 

ODU Monarch Annual Cobia Classic

July 11-13, 2024
Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Hampton, Virginia

The Old Dominion University Alumni Association is excited to bring back its Monarch Cobia Classic fundraising fishing tournament in Virginia Beach. The proceeds from the tournament benefit the ODU Alumni Association’s Scholarship Fund for students and alumni programming. The event has become one of the largest cobia tournaments on the East Coast. 

Participants can compete for cash prizes, rods, reels, gift cards and more. After two days of hard fishing, on Saturday, July 13, the competition concludes with a festive dock party at the ODU Sailing Center featuring food, beverages and live entertainment. The tournament, which started in 2017, is one of the Alumni Association’s major fundraising events.

Photo By John Wright

“The nature of the event, a fishing tournament, is appealing to a lot of the population living in Coastal Virginia,” explains Kimberly Johnson, Director of Alumni Relations. “To get the event off the ground, the ODU Alumni Association worked with a couple of local angler clubs for their support and subject matter expertise. Cobia was specifically chosen as a target quarry because summer is a great time for the species and also because this was to be a fundraising event scheduled for the summer season.”

The cobia is a hard-hitting, handsome and delicious game fish that resembles a small shark. Cobia can be hooked on crustaceans, cut baits, squid, spoons and small live fish, and are amenable to multiple angling methods like trolling, bottom rig fishing, chumming, jigging and spin casting. They’ll also take a fly. 

The species can grow up to 6 feet in length and can weigh up to 100 pounds. These distinctive looking fish are abundant from Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico. Some record-setting cobia have been caught in Virginia, and in 2022, a Hampton native caught an 81-pound cobia in a kayak off Buckroe Beach, which was no small feat.

Catching cobia can be an exhilarating experience, but it necessitates the use of heavier gear to manage the fish once it’s time to engage the drag after a run. No light tackle for this job. 

“Unlike some of the larger regional events that take place way offshore like the billfish tournaments, which require bigger, more expensive boats and gear, a Cobia tournament is more accessible from a financial standpoint,” says Tournament Director Mark Lozier.  “I’d say about 90% of the boats that go out for the cobia event are fishing in the lower Chesapeake Bay and in and around the mouth of the Bay. 

Lozier also offers some helpful tips for competitors in dealing with unpredictable conditions and safe handling once your catch is on board.

“Weather is not always optimal, so the anglers need to be prepared for windy or choppy conditions. On days when the water is calm and glassy, those participants who have boats with towers can sight cast to the quarry rather than using methods like creating chum slicks.

“To boat the heavier fish, you’ll need a really large net or a gaff, and you’ll need to think about how you’ll deal with a lively 80-pound fish landed on your deck that has the capacity to do some real damage. Though many of the people fishing this event are seasoned anglers, it pays to think ahead and be prepared.”

There are two official weigh stations for this tournament including Long Bay Pointe Marina in Virginia Beach and Wallace’s Bait & Tackle in Hampton.

If seeing your boat’s catch listed on a leader board isn’t your thing, and you don’t want to head out on the water to compete, there are other ways to get involved including corporate sponsorships and volunteer opportunities. The deadline to become a corporate sponsor is June 1. Deadline to register for the tournament is July 9.

For more information on the ODU Monarch Annual Cobia Classic, contact Kim Johnson at 757-683-3123 or kbjohnso@odu.edu.

Over-the-Shoulder Action 

A thick white marlin over-the-shoulder, slackline and all,” read the caption for this amazing fishing photo (above) captured in 2023 by Norfolk native Harry Hindmarsh off the coast of Virginia Beach in the Norfolk Canyon.

Even if you aren’t familiar with Hindmarsh’s name, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of his work if you’ve picked up a major outdoor sporting magazine in the last decade or more. Hindmarsh has traveled the world photographing and writing about fishing and other topics for publications like Outdoor Life, National Geographic, Anglers Journal, Marlin Magazine and Salt Water Sportsman

Some of the most consistently photographable salt water action can be found in places like Mexico and Costa Rica, notes Hindmarsh, who also works with corporate clients like Marriott Hotels. On outings to international destinations, he can often get 30 to 40 good photos on a single boat trip just 10 or 15 miles offshore—a feat that would be nearly impossible back home.

But his heart lies in Hampton Roads where he grew up: “I have always loved the water here and the demographic; it’s little bit of country, a little bit of city and little bit of beach.”

More Summer Fishing Tournament Highlights

The 35th Annual Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament
The 41st Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament Week

August 10-16, 2024
Pirates Cove Marina, Manteo, North Carolina

Blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish—reel ’‘em in! This popular pair of multi-day fishing events is a highlight of the regional summer sport fishing season. 

The eponymous ladies only charity fishing tournament was inspired by the late Alice Kelly, an avid OBX angler who, prior to losing her battle with Hodgkins lymphoma in 1989, founded the Outer Banks Breast Cancer Support Group (now part of the Interfaith Community Outreach program) to assist cancer patients living on the barrier island with needed transportation to out-of-town healthcare. 

The tournament is a North Carolina 501(c)(4) nonprofit with the 501(c)(3) designation attached to the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament Charity Fund. Since the Tournament’s founding, numerous charities have received meaningful donations with funds generated by these popular and festive events. 

But there’s more. The highly anticipated Pirates Cove Billfish Tournament is a serious fishing event punctuated by a party at the close of each tournament day. The action is fast and exciting, and while billfish are the headliners, other gamefish like dolphin, wahoo and tuna make frequent guest appearances. 

For more information on the Alice Kelly Memorial or Pirate’s Cove tournaments, contact
Heather Maxwell, Pirates Cove Billfish Tournaments Director, at 252-305-3610 or
fishpiratescove@gmail.com.


22nd Annual Wine, Women & Fishing Ladies-Only Charity Billfish Tournament
August 17-18, 2024
Southside Marina, Virginia Beach, Virginia

One of the most colorful annual events held by the Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation is the “Wine, Women & Fishing” women-only offshore billfish tournament. To date it has raised more than $1 million to support breast cancer research at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Open to women of all levels of fishing expertise, the activities take place under the big tent at Southside Marina. Boats can vie for the coveted ‘Crazy Crew’ awards with themed vessels, and costumes are a big part of the tournament’s upbeat vibe—a mashup of hard-core fishing and gleeful cosplay. Event founder Linda Church, who lost her best friend to breast cancer calls it “a party atmosphere for a good cause,” and emphasizes that women new to the sport are welcome. 

Learn more about the Wine, Women & Fishing tournament on the Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation’s website at cbwc.org.


Fritz Boyden Memorial Youth Tournament
June 12, 2024

Avalon, Nags Head, Jennette’s and Outer Banks piers, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Open to all anglers 16 and under, this event is a great way to introduce the sport to a newcomer or to spend some quality time with a young angling enthusiast. This annual family-oriented event is popular with the locals but draws vacationing participants from states as far flung as Minnesota and Missouri. Anglers can register at their preferred pier starting at 7 a.m. Winners in each category receive trophies and angling gear like fishing rods, reels, and tackle boxes. Cash awards are also a feature of this event. A post-competition luncheon and awards ceremony held at the famed Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head gives young anglers an opportunity to beam and brag.

Learn more about the Fritz Boyden Memorial Youth Tournament by contacting info@nagsheadsurffishingclub.org.

BH
Beth Hester
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