Despite rough seas, the sixth annual Wrightsville Beach Spearfishing Tournament drew 53 participants. The tournament ran from Friday, June 20 through Sunday, June 22 with daily weigh-ins at the Seapath Yacht Club.
Fishermen scuba and freedived to catch fish from the nine inland and deep-ocean species -categories. The top three fishermen in each category were awarded prizes.
Tournament founder and director Gregory Woodby of Wilmington explained varying categories allowed people with both jon boats and large sport fishermen to enter the same tournament and have the same chance at winning prizes.
“Our tournament is trying to promote sportsmanship and well-rounded spearfishermen,” Woodby said.
Woodby, Dewey Preast and Ryan McInnis directed the nonprofit tournament. The entry fees and donations from sponsors went to tournament expenses and prizes, such as spear guns, clothing and other gear, Woodby said. During the Sunday awards ceremony, McInnis said part of the proceeds would support the United States Spearfishing Team.
In addition to the nine species categories, the master hunter category is considered the overall best category, Woodby said. The winners in this category were determined by both weight of fish and number of species caught. Dré Fleury placed first in this division, catching six of the nine species.
A bonus lionfish category was based solely on the number of fish caught. One sponsor donated prizes just for the division in order to raise awareness about this invasive species.
Weigh-ins took place each day of the tournament, and fishermen were allowed to fish anywhere, as long as they were back in time for the weigh-ins, Woodby said. On Sunday a cookout and raffle were held during the awards ceremony.
The tournament was a family event for Mark Laboccetta of Wilmington, who placed second in the master hunter category. Laboccetta has participated in the tournament for years, and met his wife, Lydia, at a Wrightsville spearfishing tournament in 2002. They recently moved to the area from Charleston, S.C.
“This tournament is great because my family and close friends all come together and fish,” Laboccetta said. “This year is like a homecoming.”
The waters were rough for a lot of the tournament, and the visibility wasn’t great, Laboccetta said. Despite this, Laboccetta, a freediver, was able to catch five species. He placed first in the master hunter category in 2012.
Odilio Angeli of Bermuda came to North Carolina to participate in the tournament and visit friends. He said there were some stormy conditions, but that the tournament was great overall.
“There were some bad conditions, but it was great fishing,” Angeli said. “I’ll definitely be back.”