Susan Bryant of Fenwick Island, Adel Dukes-Melson of Dagsboro and two of their friends from the western shore of Maryland entered Ocean City’s 2007 Poor Girls’ Open catch-and-release fishing tournament with little or no fishing experience — especially out at sea. None of the intrepid fisherwomen had ever reeled in anything the size of an elementary school kid, as Poor Girls’ winners often do, but they entered the tournament for no other reason than to spend time together.
The four amateur anglers went in with no expectations and came out winning the tournament and a grand prize of more than $20,000.
The tournament ran from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. last weekend, starting on Aug. 24, and it didn’t take long for the ladies to reap the ocean’s harvest. Within 15 minutes of dropping their lines on the first day, Bryant and Dukes-Melson each brought marlin alongside their boat — the Tuna Bites, captained by Dagsboro local Howard Lynch — for an early lead.
And, to add to the excitement, the marlin were caught amidst the ongoing preparations for a long day of fishing. Lynch and mate Jeff Carroll were just preparing the boat, and the ladies were changing into their bathing suits when they had to spring into action.
“We were literally changing into our bathing suits when we hooked the first fish,” Bryant said. “It was amazing and absolutely exhausting. You wouldn’t think turning a reel would be hard, but it was. I was so tired I had to switch arms. And we weren’t strapped in [at first] because the mate hadn’t brought the belts up yet, so I got this giant bruise on my hip from not being strapped in.”
During the battle with the first fish, Bryant said, the thought of going over board hadn’t entered her mind. But she became more cautious when Dukes-Melson began to reel in the second marlin.
“Once you see it [the fight] secondhand, it worries you more. So I grabbed hold of her shorts, because I thought she was going to go overboard,” Bryant said.
Both ladies had been on deep-sea fishing trips before but neither had a chance to reel in anything. Bryant noted that her fishing trip in Hawaii “was more a cruise on a pretty day than a fishing trip.” And what made the trip even sweeter than the satisfaction of winning a tournament and a hefty prize purse was the fact that they’d done what their husbands couldn’t.
“They were kind of impressed,” Dukes-Melson said. “We had a broad spectrum of experience and basically were amateurs.”
“We definitely claimed bragging rights,” Bryant said. “My husband has done the White Marlin Open for the last four years and hadn’t won. But you hear all the tales of fishing and we picked up some things [from our husbands].”
Bryant said that she’d nearly wiped out the supply of Coastal Fisherman magazine at the Giant grocery store in Millville when she’d learned that the group’s picture donned the front page. Now that they’re accomplished fisherman, she said, they’ve decided to fish in the tournament again next year.
“I had an amazing time,” Bryant said. “I can’t wait to do it again next year.”